American Studies
American Studies

Zoya Brumberg

Doctoral Student
Zoya Brumberg



The American west, migration, historiography, myth-making, public space, historic and environmental preservation practices, travel memoirs, landscapes as literary characters, 1960s-70s foraging and DIY guides, road trip movies, natural history museums, communicating on these topics heuristically


AMS 311S • Visions Of Utopia

30516 • Fall 2019
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM BUR 436A

What would Karl Marx have to say about Wakanda? Can reading Plato change the way we watch Star Trek? You might be familiar with the dystopias of 1984 or Brave New World, but did you know that in 19th-century America, utopian fiction was all the rage? In this course, we will explore the concept of utopia in fiction. We begin the course by reading some of the political philosophy that inspired this “golden age” of utopian fiction. You will read the classic texts Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The rest of the course will focus on utopian themes in literature, film, theory, and television from the 1890s to 2000s that fall outside of this genre.


You will grapple with the blurred lines between fiction and idealism; racism, sexism, and other prejudices in “equitable” worlds; personal versus social utopias; what culture and identity look like in utopias; and the often unclear distinctions between dystopias and utopias. The utopias we explore are political and personal. They are all explorations of and responses to the utopian visions and (failed) experiments of radical political thought.

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