Course code:



I - Introductory

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies
  • W - Writing

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

The practice of social dreaming has a long history in philosophical thinking, stretching back to Hesiod and Plato. What constitutes a perfect or ideal society? Or, if no such place is possible, what makes for a well-functioning society? Likewise, what constitutes a terrible society? What kind of places and spaces do we want to avoid? These are important questions for human ecologists to ask as we seek to improve our relationships with our natural, social, and technological environments. To explore questions of ideal and flawed places, this course studies the concepts of utopia and dystopia across a range of philosophical, political, and literary writings. Although we will focus our attention on theoretical literature, we will read several novels and short stories, and students will present research on a work of utopian or dystopian fiction.

Additional course questions include: What motivates us to envision utopias and dystopias? Does political philosophy require a utopian vision? What do utopias and dystopias tell us about social fears, anxieties, and hopes? Course readings will focus on classical Greek thought, Enlightenment thought, political theory, and critical theory. Texts may include Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, Octavia Butler’s Blood Child, Ursula K. LaGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and selections form The Utopian Reader by Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent. Since this course is being offered as a college seminar and will meet the first-year writing requirement, we will focus on writing as process—prewriting, writing, and rewriting. As students draft bi-weekly writing assignments, they will meet with the professor or TA either individually or as part of a weekly writing lab. Papers will be peer reviewed and each student will be expected to revise each paper. In addition to bi-weekly papers, there will be an in-class presentation, a midterm exam, and a final paper.



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