The Future Tense: Modernity, Crisis, Hope
"The Future Tense: Modernity, Crisis, Hope"
“The future is a better key to the present than the past.”
“Does the future still have a future?” – J.G. Ballard
This course looks at the way that “the future” has been variously imagined and reimagined by avant-garde literary and artistic movements of the 20th and 21st centuries in America and Europe. Our guiding insight is that different visions of “the future” often have little to do with an actual future and more to do with a society’s anxieties, hopes, desires, and fears about the present. Why does the future come to take such a central place in the imagination of we moderns? How do these visions of the future replace or transform prior understandings of progress, change, and evolution? What do these visions of the future say about the societies, cultures, and artists who produce them? And why are we all so seemingly anxious now—in a moment of economic and cultural precarity—about our personal and collective futures? Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing on to our present moment, this course tracks shifting imaginations of the future through literature, social theory, and visual culture. Along the way, we will engage with the literature and art of different artistic movements like Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Sci-Fi, Pop Art, Afrofuturism, Cyberpunk, and Body Art. We will also investigate various theories of modernity, post-modernity, and hyper-modernity in order to understand where we are now in terms of our present social, cultural, political, and economic moment. Readings will likely include works by Friedrich Nietzsche, F.T. Marinetti, Tristan Tzara, Sigmund Freud, André Breton, Andy Warhol, Octavia Butler, J. G. Ballard, Marc Augé, and more; the readings for the course will be provided as PDFs for course participants." The course fulfills the UW's "W" requirement.