Sometimes we dream of a perfect social world; sometimes we imagine a nightmarish and miserable social order. And sometimes, what one person regards as a perfect society is regarded by others as perfectly horrifying. In this program we will delve into both literary and philosophical treatments of utopias and dystopias, seeking to understand both their shared impulses and their manifold differences. Our philosophical studies will center on in-depth readings of Plato’s Republic and of selections from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan; our literary selections will range from the political “fairy story” of George Orwell’s Animal Farm to the feminist utopias and dystopias of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, respectively. Through these and other readings, we will explore the values that such visions of society embody, and what they may tell us about what to seek or avoid in our social interactions. In addition, we will consider what these utopian and dystopian visions may reveal to us about our own hopes, fears, desires, and motivations.
Our program will include lectures, seminars, workshops, and film screenings; the faculty will provide students with explicit guidance and support in developing their skills as readers, writers, and critical thinkers. Students will document their new understandings by means of written responses, philosophical treatments, independent reading, bibliographic writing, and synthesis essays. Please note that the assigned reading for this program is both intellectually and emotionally demanding.
Course Reference Numbers
humanities, literature, and philosophy.