On successful completion of this module the student will be able to demonstrate:
11.1 analytical knowledge of aspects of the philosophy and theory of utopia from Plato to the present day;
11.2 an analytical, theoretical, and literary-critical understanding of selected key texts of C20th utopian and dystopian literature;
11.3 an ability to relate the theoretical and literary texts to the historical pattern of events in Europe since 1917;
11.4 an in-depth understanding of the nature of the state and of the role played by speculative thought and imaginative literature in the analysis of the present and preparation for the future.
3000 word essay:
essay MUST refer in detail to AT LEAST ONE of the module set texts on the weekly reading list. You may also refer to other relevant texts in detail if you wish. The following titles are deliberately open and can be applied to a range of texts. Even if the questions are simply phrased, it is your job to answer them in a manner which properly responds to the complexities of the texts. For the purposes of these questions, we take a ‘utopian’ text to be any of the texts of political theory, or of utopian or dystopian fiction, which we are reading on this course, whether as set text or as background.
1) How and why has education featured so prominently in utopian texts of all eras?
2) How do utopian texts treat issues of crime and social deviance, and how has this varied over time?
3) How have utopian and/or dystopian texts treated the questions of balance between the rights of the state, the family, and the individual?
4) How do utopian texts of the past and present enable us to think about the contemporary reality – and the future – of the modern nation-state?
5) Why and to what effect have recent thinkers turned back to the concept of utopia and to an exploration of utopian fiction?
6) Why and how has science fiction become a privileged mode of exploring contemporary realities and possibilities?
7) ‘We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalising rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.’ (José Esteban Muńoz, Cruising, p. 1). What are the functions of desire in the utopian imaginary?
8) ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.’ (Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies, p. 199) How and why does apocalypse figure so strongly in contemporary dystopias?
9) While artistic avant-gardes have projected utopian futures, Plato’s Republic famously distrusted the poet. Explore some of the ways in which art and the state have competed over the social imaginary.
10) How do utopia/dystopian texts deal with the question of economic and military rivalry with other states? Why are utopian/dystopian states so often defined by war and/or economic or ideological rivalry with other states?