Utopias and Utopianism

The module aims to give a detailed overview of the various ways in which the genre of literary utopia developed from the Renaissance to the present, including its ‘migration’ into science fiction in the later twentieth century. A unifying theme throughout will be: how can literary texts plausibly speak of hope, justice and human perfectibility without falling into mere sociological exposition, or falling foul of the accusation that, in literary terms it is ‘the devil who has the best tunes’. Students will be encouraged to unite a historically contextualised approach, for example looking at the political issues specific to the original moment of each utopian work, with one that is theoretically and generically informed. We shall pay particular attention both to the ways utopias build upon and contest what their predecessors have achieved, and to the complex interaction of ideological content and literary form within each individual work.