Fachbereich 7

Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft


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American Utopias and Dystopias


DozentIn: Jatin Wagle

Veranstaltungstyp: Seminar

Ort: 41/215

Zeiten: Di. 14:00 - 16:00 (wöchentlich)

Beschreibung: “‘If only’ – that is the Utopian key-note,” states H. G. Wells (1939) while talking about speculative narratives and then adds somewhat wistfully, “They are… shadows of light thrown by darkness”. In other words, utopian and dystopian imaginaries are born of discontent and seek to redress what they see as gross injustices in their present. Frederick Douglass (1864) sees such a utopian moment as the mainstay of cultural and literary expression: “Poets, prophets and reformers are all picture-makers – …. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction”. Viewed through this prism, American utopias and dystopias are corrective mirrors of contemporary societies, as they are indeed the reminders of past promises and warnings of impending futures. In this course in American studies, we will first address the salience of utopian and dystopian thought and imagination in the United States and then take up a selection of speculative narratives in fiction from early twentieth century to the present and examine their multiple functions.
In order to take and enjoy this class, you should be willing to read, analyze, and discuss historical, analytical and filmic texts, as well as texts of narrative fiction. Please note that this course can be taken as either a Literary Studies or a Cultural Studies course. Furthermore, this seminar is recommended for fourth and fifth semester students of English and American Studies, as it builds on students’ sound awareness and understanding of critical approaches to the study of literature.
A selection of other primary texts will be appended soon. However, if you wish to participate in this class, please procure and read the following novel:
Toni Morrison, _Paradise_ (1997) [Vintage edition, 1999, ISBN: 978-0099768210]
The required readings with a tentative schedule will be made available online on Stud.IP before our first class. Please check the course webpages on Stud.IP regularly for updates, announcements, and changes.
Prerequisites for participation: B1 module
General requirements:
1. Regular attendance, homework and active participation in classroom presentations and discussions. If you skip a session, it will be your responsibility to follow up on the course contents and allotted tasks.
2. ALL course participants MUST read EACH of the texts being discussed in the class carefully and prepare their notes or questions diligently.
3. A small group of participants will introduce the reading(s) allotted for the session in the form of a short presentation, while the rest of the participants will post a question/remark/comment on the relevant wiki set up for the purpose.
Requirements for grade: All of the above, and a seminar paper (approx. 4500 words). Further instructions in this regard will be provided after the first half of the course is over.
This course shares requirements and guidelines with the other American Studies courses taught at IfAA. The “American Studies Tool Kit” in the Stud.IP “Files” section outlines these requirements and guidelines. Please see the “Guidelines for Seminar Papers” for information on the formal requirements for the final paper. The “Abbreviations Key” and “Grading Rubric” are used in the grading and feedback process and will enable you to better judge your own paper even before handing it in.


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