Fulfills the L & S breadth requirement in Arts and Literature or Philosophy and Values.
Utopian literature constructs imaginary societies from scratch. The purpose of that fresh start is usually idealistic: to redefine society on the basis of virtue, or to make its institutions more rational than those found in actual societies. Some think such idealism politically dangerous, because liable to open the way to excessive social control, even dictatorship. This is a canonical theme of dystopian literature. In this course we will examine the classical beginnings of utopian literature, in Plato's Republic, and in his Timaeus and Critias (which tell the story of the lost world of Atlantis), as well as in some plays of Aristophanes. We will also consider later developments, in Thomas More's Utopia (which gave the genre its name), and in such works as William Morris' News from Nowhere, and Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed.
Towards the end of the semester the seminar participants will be divided into groups, each of which will be asked to devise its own utopia on a particular theme, for oral presentation in class.
Requirements: Regular attendance and participation in class; one four-page paper on the ancient material; one group presentation; final exam (quiz-type questions on the post- classical material).
4 units. Course cannot be taken pass/ fail.