Joint-honours information for 2016 entry

Utopias and Dystopias

Module Q3119

Module details for 2016/17.

30 credits

FHEQ Level 6

Module Outline

This module explores the production of utopian and dystopian fictions from the sixteenth century (Thomas More's publication in 1516 of Utopia) to the present day. It examines the production of utopian images and thought in a number of specific cultural and historical contexts. These include the sixteenth century context in which More originally developed the concept of utopia; the production in the eighteenth century of utopian and dystopian responses to the enlightenment (particularly those of Swift and Voltaire); the nineteenth century utopian tradition in the US (Hawthorne, Thoreau); the explosion of utopian thinking at the end of the nineteenth century (with writers such as Bellamy, Wells and Morris); the relationship between modernism and utopia (particularly in relation to Woolf and Kafka); the growth of dystopian responses to modernity in the nineteen thirties and forties (Orwell, Huxley); the importance of utopian thinking in relation to feminism, from Sarah Scott to Wollstonecraft to Shelley to Atwood; and the shifting role of utopian and dystopian thinking in marshalling the political possibilities of literature from the sixties to the present day (from Beckett to Cormac McCarthy).

Throughout this wide ranging module, we will focus closely on a number of central questions. How far is it possible for literary works to imagine a better or a perfect world? How far is it possible for such imaginings to effect actual social change? Are utopian fantasies politically regressive, an opiate to distract us from material social inequality? What is the role of dystopian thinking? Does dystopian fiction contradict utopian thought forms, or can dystopian writing produce utopian possibilities? What is the relationship between utopian thinking and hope? Is there a theological dimension to utopian thought? What is the relation between science and utopia? In addressing these questions, the module will offer a means of thinking broadly but rigorously about the role of literature in transforming social conditions, and making the world a better place.

Module learning outcomes

Read critically a range of fictional texts, from the sixteenth century to the present day, that develop various conceptions of utopian and dystopian thought.

Engage with theoretical conceptions of utopia that infom readings of literary texts.

Develop a critical awareness of the relationship between literary texts and social change.

Construct a clear argument on a relevant topic, in an extended dissertation.

Dissertation (6000 words)Semester 2 Assessment Week 1 Thu 16:00100.00%

Submission deadlines may vary for different types of assignment/groups of students.


Coursework components (if listed) total 100% of the overall coursework weighting value.

TermMethodDurationWeek pattern
Spring SemesterWorkshop1 hour111111111111
Spring SemesterSeminar2 hours111111111111

How to read the week pattern

The numbers indicate the weeks of the term and how many events take place each week.

Ms Anne Crawford

Assess convenor

Ms Emma Carlyle

Assess convenor

Dr Catherine Packham

Assess convenor

Dr Sam Ladkin

Assess convenor, Convenor

Miss Trudy Cadman

Assess convenor

Dr Chloe Porter

Assess convenor

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