Spring 2016 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Dennis, Patrick
Discipline and Number
HUMA 1301 Section 502
TR Time 5:30 PM - 6:45 PM
Course Title
Exploration of the Humanities

Description of Course:

The political, socioeconomic, and scientific development of Western societies over the last two millennia has inspired philosophers, historians, and writers alike not only to extolment of the virtues of these societies but also to speculation as to their future. Such speculation has generally taken one of two perspectives: utopian or dystopian. While visions of the former derive from a sense of hope for what is to come, the latter often sees little, if any hope in what the future holds for society. Perhaps the earliest example of such a utopian approach is Plato’s Republic. The system Plato proposes remedies what he finds to be the most pressing problem in Athenian society: democracy. It is not until the nineteenth century, however, that authors begin to contemplate the further deterioration of society rather than hope of a remedy. The science fiction of the last century, in particular, has taken to speculating about a negative future. In this course, we will focus on the tendency of twentieth (and twenty-first) century fiction to present a pessimistic outlook for the future. In particular, we will examine specific issues that the authors address, the origins of those issues, and how the authors project the worsening of those issues into the future. From the authoritarian regimes presented in Orwell’s 1984 and V for Vendetta, to the intensification, rather than the dissipation, of class divisions in Snowpiercer, to the question of crime and punishment in “The Minority Report” and A Clockwork Orange, to the role of science in the future of Western societies, we will arrive at an understanding of how such dystopian visions, in addition to reflecting a loss of hope for the future, also serve as a spur to action in the present.

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