College of Arts and Sciences | Visions of the Future: A History
E104 | 11064 | Pace

9:30AM - 10:45AM TR

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, I was fascinated
by two very different visions of the future. On the one hand, I was
transfixed by the powerful language and vivid imagery of the Book of
Revelation in the Christian Bible. At the same time I was entranced
by the promises of a world of flying cars, trips to the moon, and
universal prosperity that appeared regularly in the magazine section
of the Sunday newspaper. As time passed, new futures appeared in the
culture around me--the horror of a future devastated by nuclear war,
the hope for a world of racial and cultural tolerance, to mention
but two of them. When years later I encountered the work of
historians who sought to trace the development of different visions
of the future as a means of determining the ideas and values of past
eras, my old fascination with such futures returned, and I
eventually decided to use the "history of the future" as an
organizing concept around which to build a course.

In this course we will explore such issues as expectations of the
end of the world, hopes that science and technology could produce a
new and better life for humanity; encounters with other cultures;
space exploration; concerns about economic, racial, and gender
equality in the world of the future; fears about the growing
destructiveness of warfare; fears of nuclear or environmental
disaster; and the conceptualization of the future in terms of the
acquisition of consumer goods. Grades will be based on weekly Web
assignments, two 5-page essays, and in-class team exercises.