End of the World & Dystopian Reflections
“Thank you. That was really eye opening,” a recent student told me at the end of this course. He was reflecting about his priorities after watching the final film I show in the class, Happy – he got me thinking – Yes! That is the purpose of this entire course! To open our eyes! To reflect on our world, our role in the world, to open our eyes to the things we accept as normal and to the truth and possible future.
what this course is
This course examines an introductory sampling of “end of the world” and dystopian speculative literature.
Narrated from a post-apocalyptic setting, end of the world “disaster” literature forces us to examine how humans find meaning and purpose not only in their individual lives but also as a society, however small that society is. Dystopian literature, on the other hand, portrays worlds that have failed miserably in achieving the goal of a social and political order free of cruelty, corruption and misery. Both genres address the individual’s role in these big situations. These imaginary worlds have connections with the real world and present important issues for us to consider. We will search for reoccurring themes in these disaster and dystopian narratives and study the issues the authors highlight. As the course progresses, students will identify the important issues in our world and form their own vision of the “end” or “dystopia” to serve as a warning for future readers.
and what it’s not…
This course is not intended to depress, nor is it intended to provide a fatalistic excuse to give up. In fact, quite the opposite should occur. Since the literature portrays frightening and horrifying imaginary worlds, readers are forced to acknowledge society’s ills – to inspire change! In addition, many of the narratives we will examine reveal mankind’s hope – his need – to survive, to “do the right thing,” to persevere, to rebuild, and to be remembered. We must find, create, and preserve what is beautiful. Everything matters!
ü Do you think the world will ever end? Why or why not? How do you define “the end” in this context?
ü What is beautiful?
ü Is art important?
ü What are the important issues of our time? What is threatened?
ü What does it mean to be human? What gives our lives meaning?
ü How is civilization created, maintained, and/or destroyed? What role does the individual play in preserving or destroying the world?
ü What is our relationship with nature and animals?
ü How far is too far? Where do we ascribe accountability?
Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
HG Wells’ The Time Machine
Alfred Bester’s “Adam and No Eve”
Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (painting)
Ray Bradbury’s “And There Will Come Soft Rains”
Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”
Lev Grossman’s “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal”
Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air”
David Olsson’s “Id” (2010 EOW DYS)
Edgar Allen Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”
James Thurber’s “The Last Flower”
Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe”
2001: A Space Odyssey (clips)
Black Mirror’s “White Christmas” movie
Never Let Me Go
Twelve Monkeys & La Jetee
Honors Project: (please ask me for my packet)
You will select TWO novels that work well together from a list I provide and complete weekly composition literary analysis responses to your weekly readings. You will also conduct two film studies and write a 1000 word comparative essay. You are expected to revise all work for your final portfolio.
Quizzes (daily reading; 5 questions @ 5 points = 25 points; lowest dropped)
Homework & Class work (from 10-25 points)
Participation (@ 5 week mark @ 50 x 2)
Fiction Writing (50 -100)
Journal (5-10 points per entry; 1 page min; notes)
FINAL PROJECT (100)
What will the workload look like?
After every night’s assigned reading, you will take a five question / passage identification quiz to demonstrate that you read actively. TAKE NOTES!
Primarily active reading. Sometimes writing.
Zones, Character & Journey Maps, Movie Posters, Written Responses, Graphic Organizers, Poems, etc.
You are expected not only to participate in discussion, but also to be attentive and prepared. Cell phones are a big no-no and use of a cell phone hurts your class participation grade.
Essays / Projects:
You will write two critical essays analyzing the works we covered. There is a mid-term essay and an Oryx and Crake essay. Short story excerpts, final project short story, building a time machine, etc.
Because You Asked (or Will Ask!)
Recommended Readings / Films:
1984 by George Orwell
28 Days Later (film)
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
“All Watched Over by Machines of Love and Grace” (poem) by Richard Brautigan
Anthem by Ayn Rand
“Arena” by Frederic Brown
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Battle Royale (film)
Blade Runner (film)
Black Mirror series
Charlie Fish’s “Bleeding Jungle”
Book of Eli (film)
A Boy and His Dog (film)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Children of Men by P.D. James
Children of Men (film)
The Circle (film)
Gaye Jee’s “A Civilising Influence”
The Day After (film)
The Day After Tomorrow (film)
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Edge of Tomorrow(film)
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Final Impact (film)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Grass by Sheri Tepper
Halfway Human by Caroline Gilman
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hyperion by Dan Simmons (+ other books in the series)
I, Robot (film and novel by Isaac Asimov)
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Independence Day (film)
An Inconvenient Truth (film)
The Last Man on Earth (film)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Logan’s Run (film)
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Lucifer’s Hammer by Walter Williams
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood
The Matrix (film)
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
Minority Report (film)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (also a film)
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”
The Omega Man (film)
On the Beach by Neville Shute
One Second After by William Forstchen
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The Planet of the Apes by Pierrre Boulle
Player One Ready by Ernest Cline
The Postman by David Brin
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Road Warrior (film)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
R.U.R. by Karel Capek
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (film)
The Seventh Seal (Demi Moore film)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergen film)
Shaun of the Dead (film)
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Song of Kali by Dan Simmons
Spiral by Paul McEuen
The Stand by Stephen King
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Stepford Wives (old and new films)
Time Lapse (film)
Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
“True Love” by Isaac Asimov
“Twilight” by John Campbell
V for Vendetta (film)
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
“The Veldt” by Ray Bardbury
Vic and Blood by Harlan Ellison
The Walking Dead (TV series)
War of the Worlds by HG Wells
“The Weapon” by Frederic Brown
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
“The Weapon Shops” by A.E. Van Vogt
What Happened to Monday? (film)
White Noise by Don Delillo
Wool by Hugh Howey
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Year Zero by Jeff Long
Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien (YA)
ZPG: Zero Population Growth (film)
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