WiSe 20/21: Utopia in the American Literary Imagination
Tobias Alexander Jochum
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In-person teaching: Only students registered on campusmanagement can participate.
As a popular adage goes, it often seems "easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism." When Frederic Jameson picked up the phrase, he was lamenting a profusion of ... Lesen Sie weiter
As a popular adage goes, it often seems "easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism." When Frederic Jameson picked up the phrase, he was lamenting a profusion of dystopic fiction in U.S. popular culture, more so under contemporary neoliberalism since the collapse of the Communist block. The material crises of late capitalism may indeed be matched by a profound crisis of the imagination. However, with our current timeline accelerating into real-world dystopia—ecological, political, technological—the implicit warnings issued by speculative worst-case scenarios ring hollow, while the need for utopian thinking, for articulating radical visions of alternative futures and more equitable, sustainable ways of living, is becoming as urgent as ever. In this seminar we will first trace the philosophical genealogy of utopia in the Western imagination, along writings by Thomas More, Ernst Bloch, and several contemporary Marxist thinkers; then turn to a number of emblematic literary works from the U.S.—the notion of "utopia" of course being baked into the very conception of the American project—which will be historicized within their respective contexts and probed for resonances with the historical present. After examining Edward Bellamy's influential socialist utopia Looking Backward (1888), the main focus will be on the 20th century, where we will review a long-neglected tradition of Black American utopian thought (WEB DuBois, Octavia Butler, Afrofuturism), seminal feminist fictions (Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Marge Piercy, Ursula LeGuin), and further texts arising out of the cultural upheavals of the sixties, such as Island (1961), Aldous Huxley's late rejoinder to his earlier, more pessimistic work, and Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia (1976), one of the foundational texts of the Green movement, which points us back to current struggles for planetary survival, exemplified in proposals like the Green New Deal. Schließen