Fredric Jameson’s Archaeology of the Future: the Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2007) articulates the central concern of this graduate seminar: “In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful?” The short answer to this question is “yes.”  The longer one will require us to take an unconventional critical approach to the form.  While recent scholarship about dys/u/eu/topoi has tended to focus on the manner in which utopian literature forms a response to the political events of its time—e.g., Plato’s commentary upon the Athenian polis in the Republic, Thomas More’s response to the Reformation in Utopia, Jonathan Swift’s commentary upon the contentious political climate in post-Civil War England in Gulliver’s Travels, Ernst Bloch’s visions within the context of early Marxism and Fredric Jameson’s in the context of advanced capitalism—in this graduate seminar we will consider of equal importance the expression of place. The words “utopia” and “dystopia,” after all, are directly traceable to the Greek term topos, or “place”—a skewed place in the case of the dystopia, and a non-existent (but good) one in the case of the utopia. Our particular emphasis will be upon the remarkable fact that utopian works create places and spaces within fictional worlds that help open up new frontiers in our own. By examining the adjacency between fictive and real-world spaces and places, we shall be able to assess the continued relevance of this important literary form.



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