This courses examines the sociological reasons behind the explosion of the dystopian (sometimes called “dyslit”) and post-apocalyptic subgenres in the past decade, manifested in the bestselling trilogies The Hunger Games and Divergent, prize-winning fiction such as Cormac McCarthy’s futuristic wasteland The Road, and the recent release of the film adaptation of The Giver, Lois Lowry’s young adult classic. However, these seer-like representations are not the product of the late twentieth century and contemporary period, but have a much longer lineage; for instance, E.M. Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops,” though published in 1909, uncannily predicted the iPod, Skype, instant messaging, and the Internet. In this spirit, we will identify narrative traditions this body of writing revisits to impart, ironically, a clairvoyant vision for our world’s future. Assignments include regular blog posts, longer writing assignments whose options include a close-reading essay, an op-ed, an imitative style exercise, plus three online group discussion chats from which you have a wide selection of dates/times. In short, we will discover how these prophetic forms, straddling the realms of science, politics, literature, and psychology, document, “what is past, is passing, and to come,” to borrow from William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium,” and assess their position at the forefront of the popular imagination.
This course fulfills a Post-1800 Literature requirement for English Department majors. Satisfies HUMA (DISC).