Utopias and Utopianism

It is currently very difficult to imagine the future other than in dystopian terms, as climate disaster and social apocalypse (perhaps with a nuclear holocaust thrown in for good measure). It would seem, then, that we have great need of a literary form that would speak up for hope, justice and human perfectibility; and that form has traditionally been the genre of utopia. This course tracks through the history and transformations of the genre of utopia, from the Renaissance founding fathers (Thomas More and Francis Bacon), through such late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century practitioners as Edward Bellamy, William Morris, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and H.G. Wells, to the great utopias of the 1960s and 1970s and beyond: Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy, Ernest Callenbach and Kim Stanley Robinson. We shall look at utopian theorising – such concepts as ‘kinetic utopia’, ‘critical utopia’ and ‘ecotopia’ – as well as the texts themselves. If you want to leave a decent human future to your grandchildren, start here!