Junior Honors Seminar

1:00p-2:15p TR (15 students) 3 CR. Satisfies A&H
Distribution Requirements

College intensive writing section. Above section requires approval from the Director of English Honors, Judith Brown, jcb@indiana.edu. Obtain Authorization from BH 442.

TOPIC: “Utopian Thought and Literature

In coining the word “utopia” in his 1516 book of that name, Thomas More intended a pun on the Greek works for “good place” and for “no place.” As such, More initiated the series of questions which have troubled the concept of utopia ever since: Is it really possible to represent in literature or culture an entirely “good place?” Or should we imagine that such ideal societies are “no place” to be found? Can a good place be good for everyone or is it the case that one person’s utopia is another person’s hell on earth? Does the search for utopia necessarily end up in the creation of totalitarian societies or is an element of utopianism a necessary part of any drive for social change? Throughout this seminar, we will be reading a host of literary utopias – including More, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed – but we will also be considering utopian phenomena in the culture at large: the Mall of America and Walt Disney World’s planned community, Celebration. As a complement to the discussion of utopia, I also plan to introduce students to the concept of ideology and to the ideological analysis of literature. In general, I intend students to leave the class with a good grasp of social and political approaches to the interpretation of literature, approaches that they may be able to use in their other classes and in their writing of the thesis. Written work will include short responses, two mid-length or one seminar-length interpretive essay (an option to be negotiated between student and teacher) and, since utopias focus on communal activity, one group project which will ask students to imagine their own utopias.