Dystopia and the question of the human
This course explores dystopian cultural productions produced in the nineteenth, twentieth, and early twenty-first centuries. It examines how visual and literary representations of dystopia function as forms of social and political critique of social formations, national cultures, economic processes, and the dominant gendered, raced and sexualized order of things. Our central question: how do dystopian representations examine processes of dehumanization that render some beings worthy of care, resources and thus survival, and other beings unworthy of the same and therefore as disposable. Over the quarter, we will treat a range of theoretical texts that explore issues of genre and form, power over life itself (aka biopower), and narration of historical conflict and contradiction. While dystopian representations can be depressing, they can also be enlightening in that they constitute critical thinking tools that might ideally contribute to consciousness of the need for far reaching social transformation. We will attend to this possibility and thus to the politics of our engagement with dystopian representations in the present moment. Students should expect to produce a substantial paper over the course of the quarter as well as several shorter writing assignments. They should be prepared to work with literary, theoretical and visual texts.