Reality Through the Utopian Looking Glass (Kenneth Roemer and Wilhelm Vosskamp, Co-Chairs)


How does vicariously experiencing radically better (or worse) imaginary worlds change our perceptions of the past, present, and future?  The seminar will address this question with a highly selective introduction to utopian expression.  We begin with the grandfather of the genre, Thomas More’s Utopia, and its Classical, Arcadian, and religious roots.  Next we examine 18th-century unambiguous and satirical spatial and time travel utopias (Defoe, Mercier, Schnabel, Swift) and the paradigmatic 19th-century utopia, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, in the contexts of William Morris’s response, the utopian satire of Samuel Butler satiric Erehwon, and Black Elk / Neihardt’s reconstruction of a Lakota vision. The variety of 20th- and 21st-century utopian and dystopian expression will be suggested in examinations of classic and recent dystopias (Zamiatin, Huxley, Orwell, and Cormac McCarthy), psychological eupsychias (B.F. Skinner and Abraham Maslow), ecotopias (Callenbach and the White Hawk, Texas community vs. Disney World), and feminist utopias (Gilman, Piercy, and Le Guin).

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