While the genre of dystopian literature did not enter the cultural lexicon until the 1950s, 19th century realist works and speculative fiction spawned a unique group of early 20th century anti-utopian texts. Unlike today’s batch of prodigious Young Adult dystopian fiction, turn of the century writers heavily emphasized the probability of their worlds coming to fruition. In doing so, such writers provide pointed, articulate social criticism that aimed to balance the fantastical with the probable. Through this course we will explore the early genre characteristics of dystopian literature before the publication of George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984 (1948). In doing so, the course will tract the development of the dystopian novel before WWII and the surprising commonalities such works often share with the existing genre of utopian literature.
Course texts will touch on diverse and controversial subjects including class-warfare, immersive technology, gender equality, eugenics and Fascism. The course grade will be based on participation, close reading assignments, a midterm and a final.