Utopias and Dystopias with Elissa Greenwald
Tuesday mornings from 10:30-noon on Zoom.
February 1, 8, 15, 22, and March 1.
Course limited to 20 participants.
People have tried to design better worlds for centuries. Recently, we have been forced to confront human imperfections such as inequity, exploitation of Nature, and competition rather than cooperation in using resources. Looking at past models of better worlds, as well as warnings about the consequences if humankind does not correct its course, may help us design a better future. We will read Plato’s “Myth of the Cave” from The Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) as models of utopian societies, then explore the possibility of equality between men and women in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novella Herland (1915) and Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own (1929). We will conclude with two twentieth century dystopian works, Thornton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth, a satire of the American Dream from 1942, and Octavia Butler’s visionary novel The Parable of the Sower (1993; set in 2024). Along the way, we will consider examples of utopian architecture and urban design as well as the history of utopian communities. In the spirit of equality, the course will combine mini-lectures with discussion.