Fields of Barley, Streets of Gold: Utopia in Fiction
Division I; Writing-Intensive;
This is not the current course catalog
Each of the gates was a single pearl: And the street of the city was pure gold, As it were transparent glass. Revelations 21:21 It makes us happy to imagine the future in apocalyptic terms, partly because we love to say I told you so. You didn’t listen, and now look. Fort Lee is on fire, and zombies are smashing down your parents’ door. Catastrophe satisfies us on many levels; by contrast, the utopian vision provides a more delicate thrill. For a writer, the task is to provide a fiction that will not feel like a moral lesson or the illustration of some theory about how we should behave. This course will consider different utopian stories in turn, moving from Plato’s Republic through the invented worlds of Thomas More, Margaret Cavendish, Edward Bellamy, and H.G. Wells, and then into the more contemporary science fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula LeGuin, John Crowley, and others. Implicit in any kind of alternate reality is its creators’ rejection of the place they live, and their corresponding longing for something new, which in all cases is as interesting as the way a story might work as a model for social improvement. In addition to the occasional critical essay, students will invent a personal utopian fiction of about twenty to twenty-five pages, to be read and discussed by the class.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: various short assignments and one 20-page project
Distributions: Division I; Writing-Intensive;