Dystopian Literature and Social Critique

Ever since Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (2008), dystopian literature—literature that imagines societies worse than our own—has been particularly popular with young adult readers. But other than enticing students to read, does dystopian literature have a particular use value? This seminar will explore dystopian literature within the broader spectrum of the concepts of utopia and utopianism that open up a conceptual space for thinking about social alternatives. We will discuss the emergence of the dystopian genre in the twentieth century and the structural elements of dystopian narratives. We will focus on dystopian literature as a response to certain historical trends and its work as a critical, often satirical, warning of where society could be headed if those trends continue. We will also discuss the recent prevalence of the teen "dystopian romance" and its problematic status as a mode of social critique.