Imagined Worlds: Utopian and Dystopian Visions (Literature Elective; US)

Grades 11–12

Is a perfect world possible? What makes a world go wrong? Across the ages, thinkers have grappled with these questions by imagining utopias, ideal societies that lift the human spirit, and dystopias, damaged societies that crush it. Creative artists in our own time have been especially interested in finding answers to these questions because we live in a society that has undergone profound changes stemming from technological and scientific advances, as well as attempts to right long-standing inequities. Students will explore how dystopias and utopias illuminate the promise and peril of our time by examining how their creators use world-building to develop imagined societies and advance their visions. Students will not only analyze these works in critical essays and presentations, they will also work as creators themselves, imagining their own new worlds. Students will craft fictional utopian and dystopian pieces and will bring their visions of a more perfect world to life by designing a social justice campaign. Topics may include utopia within dystopia, technology, bioethics, Afrofuturism, climate, gender, race, sexuality, and class. Possible texts include: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, Klara and the Sun or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemison, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Parable of the Sower or The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, 1984 by George Orwell, the films Us and Black Panther, and episodes of Black Mirror, as well as selected short stories, poems, art works, and videos. 

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