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2010/1 Module Catalogue
Module Provider: English Short Name: LG04X
Level: HE3 Module Co-ordinator: JOYCE CC Dr (English)
Number of credits: 20 Number of ECTS credits: 10
Module Availability
Assessment Pattern
Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark (%)
Oral Presentation (15 minutes)
Qualifying Condition(s)
Oral Presentation (10% of total assessment)
15 minutes
Essay   (50% of total assessment)
2500 – 3000 words
Exam (40% of total assessment)
A seen paper

The Assessment Strategy is designed to develop and demonstrate students’ skills as advanced independent learners and to build on the understanding of literary study they have acquired in previous modules.  
Students will be required to give an oral presentation as part of their formative assessment.
Short written pieces may also be required, including critiques of texts or extracts, and interpretive commentaries or reviews
The essay titles will be designed to allow students scope to show how well they have read and understood the chosen texts and related matter, and their ability to compare, contrast and evaluate these. During the course they will have been encouraged towards a measure of intellectual independence and the development of research skills; the essays, together with the examination, will demonstrate how far these aims have been achieved. The constraints of examination conditions will additionally test how well students can focus their minds on the specific questions and organise and present their knowledge and understanding to best effect.
Module Overview
This course provides an opportunity for students at level 3 (with a good deal of literary and other study behind them) to embark on the examination of a challenging and indeterminate genre – embracing pure fiction, prediction, satire and social comment, politics and polemic. The course also aims to encourage students’ confidence in negotiating this complex field of non-realist representation.
It also provides opportunities for students to develop facility in critical exposition and argument.
60 credits at Level 2
Module Aims
This course aims to explore some of the most influential and/or famous utopian and dystopian writings published during the 20th century. Broadly speaking, this kind of writing either offers visions of how society could be improved - even made perfect - or it warns of what might happen if things do not change in some fundamental way. One concern in this course will be to examine the genre divide: between, for instance, 'the literary' and 'the political', 'the utopian/dystopian' and 'the science fictional', and indeed between the ‘utopian' and the ‘dystopian' themselves (is a fascist utopia, say, the same thing as a socialist dystopia?). The course also aims to provide students with a suitable conceptual apparatus - a grammar and vocabulary - for negotiating non-realist modes of representation; and to explore the ways in which these may (or may not) provide effective political commentary or critique.
Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module the student should be able to:
Knowledge and Understanding
  • Demonstrate a sound knowledge of twentieth century utopian and dystopian writing.
  • Demonstrate research skills and their ability to interpret and evaluate primary and secondary source material.
  • Demonstrate an informed understanding of the texts as creative literature.
  • Undertake comparative studies of utopian/dystopian texts confidently, and be able to discuss individual texts in relation to the genre critically, and how individual texts arise from the specific historical conditions surrounding their production.
Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
  • Ability to understand the presentation of intellectual and moral issues in creative writing.
  • Ability to apply appropriate methods of response to the texts.
  • Ability to apply advanced critical and analytical approaches.
  • Ability to speak and write fluently and accurately about themes, issues and their treatment
  • Ability to apply relevant terms and concepts and to use appropriate academic approaches and conventions
Key / Transferable / Practical Skills
  • Advanced analytical and critical skills and ability to relate theoretical and critical approaches to literary and related issues
  • Self-reliance in basic research
  • A high degree of time management and ability to work to deadlines under pressure
  • Well developed group working practice
  • Good presentational skills
  • Fluency in oral and written presentation of complex ideas
In order to achieve the threshold standard for the award of credits for this module, the student must meet the following criteria related to the learning outcomes described above:
  • A general knowledge and understanding of various forms of literature in this genre.
  • Some insight into and understanding of the main relevant concepts.
  • Some understanding of the underlying social and political contexts.
  • Show some ability to select and acknowledge source materials in formal assignment.
  • Evidence of ability to apply critical and analytical approaches to literature.  
Module Content
The module will be divided into four main sections. In the first students will be introduced to the genre through examination landmark texts, including Zamyatin's We and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The second and third sections will feature utopian and dystopian writing that is specifically concerned with gender and/or sexuality in order to provide the basis for closely focused and detailed explorations of generic developments during the period. The fourth and fifth sections will extend the range of students' knowledge of the genre through consideration of further classic utopian and dystopian writings and by a consideration of a selection of short stories and/or extracts from The Faber Book of Utopias.
Sessions 1 – 5: Introduction and ‘Two Famous Dystopias and Two Famous Utopias’
Arguably, the most famous example of utopian or dystopian fiction produced in the last one hundred years is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. After an informal lecture explaining this course’s rationale, we will consider this text, and, over the next four weeks, begin to examine this genre by comparing the Orwell novel with Aldous Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World, his utopian novel, Island, and either J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan or L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. 
Sessions 6 – 12: Gender and the Utopian Imagination
This section of the course will compare and contrast four feminist utopias/dystopias. Two of these, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, andMurray Constantine’s Swastika Night will be drawn from the period before the second world war; two of them, Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale from after the war. The course will explore continuities and discontinuities in generic concerns and examine points of connection with the texts considered in the earlier sessions.
Sessions 13 – 15: Gender and the Utopian Imagination (ii)
This section of the course will develop the themes of the previous section by examining two novels published in the 1970s which are often discussed in relation to one another: Ursula K. Le Guin’s, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. The course will also consider the putative unity of these books and the nature of the impact on this genre generated by the rise of the new social movements in the late sixties and early seventies. 
Sessions 16 – 20: More Classics and a Selection of Short Stories
This section will examine Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 and a selection of short stories, e.g., E.M. Forster, 'The Machine Stops', John Wyndham, 'Consider Her Ways', Charles Beaumont, 'The Crooked Man'. Students will be allowed to suggest alternative texts for study. The final week will include a review of the whole course, which will also, in effect, be a revision class in preparation for the examination.
Methods of Teaching/Learning
The Teaching and Learning Strategy is designed to ensure that students can demonstrate the knowledge and skills set out in the learning outcomes. Students will be encouraged to work interactively, to reflect on their own learning and to engage independently and with others in critical argument and debate.
The Mode of Delivery will consist of a mixture of informal lectures and seminars. Sometimes these will be student-led; and each student will be expected to give presentations as part of class activities. There will also be discussion of specific questions in small and larger groups.
Selected Texts/Journals
Essential Texts
Novels: (available in various editions)
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan (1904)
L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (1900)
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451 (1953)
Murray Constantine [Kathryn Burdekin], Swastika Night (1937)
Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue (1984)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
Aldous Huxley, Island (1962)
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)
Short Stories
Charles Beaumont, 'The Crooked Man' (1955)
E.M. Forster, 'The Machine Stops’ (1909)
John Wyndham, 'Consider Her Ways' (1956)

Recommended Reading
John Carey, ed. The Faber Book of Utopias (London: Faber and Faber, 1999) 
Chris Ferns, Narrating Utopia: Ideology, Gender, Form in Utopian Literature (Liverpool University Press, 1999)
Carl Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 2000)
Val Gough and Jill Rudd (eds) A Very Different Story: Studies on the Fiction of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Liverpool University Press, 1998)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958)
Katie De Koster, Readings on Farenheit451 (Greenhaven Press, 2000)
Krishan Kumar, Utopianism (1991) 
Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (1990)
F.E. Manuel and F.P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (1979)
Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (London: Methuen, 1986)
George Orwell, 'James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution' in Orwell, Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Vol. 4. 
Robin Anne Reid, Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. (London: Greenwood, 2000)
Raymond Williams, 'Utopia and Science Fiction' in Patrick Parrinder (ed.), Science Fiction: A Critical Guide, (Bungay: Richard Clay [The Chaucer Press], 1979), pp. 52 - 66.

Other Indicative Reading
Lucie Armitt (ed.), Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women and Science Fiction (London: Routledge, 1991)
Samuel R. Delany, 'To Read The Dispossessed' in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on  the Language of Science Fiction (New York: Berkley Windhover, 1977), pp. 218 - 283.
Val Gough, Candas Jane Dorsey, Dunja Mohr and Farah Mendlesohn, 'Commentaries on Native Tongues' in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, Vol.29, No.79, Summer 2000, pp. 35-40
Sarah Lefanu, In the Chinks of the World Machine: Feminism and Science Fiction.  London, The Women's Press, 1988.


Last Updated
30 September 2008