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Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature

Join an award-winning professor to examine a wide range of literary works extending from the peaceful to the nightmarish, and from the conservative to the subversive.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 74.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this Course! The content was fascinating and I just wish I had time to delve into all of books mentioned. The professor was outstanding! She had a really dynamic and natural presentation style and kept me captivated. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2024-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comments from a learner I enjoyed learning about the structure and meaning of utopia and dystopia literature. I think that at the end of this series I walked away with truly knowing how to read and interpret utopia and dystopia novels. The professor I can tell knows her stuff on this topic. I was inspired to read a couple dystopia novels recommended in this series. There are two fair criticisms in this series. First, I think talking about young adult dystopia books was not good to include for lectures geared towards adults. Second, including discussion on TV and movie versions of dystopias was not professional. In the end, I do recommend this lecture series because it will expand your understanding of utopia and dystopia literature.
Date published: 2024-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I wished there were 24 more lectures! I loved this course. A very engaging account of great utopia/dystopia literature that, otherwise, I think I would never read. I mean, its already enough to have some scholarly views of the famous materials (as the three great works of Zamyatin, Huxley and Orwell), but I loved so much the content of this course on other diverse works that go under the classification of sci-fy, fantasy, which do fit to the utopia/dystopia genre, that it opened up my mind to even young-adult literature that I, now, am eager to read. The professor is so convincing, so precise in pointing the good stuff that may call our attention to these works, that made me enjoy the lectures as I never imagined they would. Give it a try. Maybe, as me, you're going to find out how pleasant it may be to read such literature accompanied by the smart, if somehow personal, analysis of a GREAT lecturer. Besides, I am very grateful that the professor has reserved part of the lectures touching on feminist, as well LGBTI+, contributions to the genre. A real soup of contemporary philosophical, social and political issues, that made the subject far more interesting than plain entertainment. Thanks for such an addition. I would love to see more with this professor, she is Fabulous, and so charismatic!
Date published: 2024-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing course! I enjoyed this course a lot. Professor is very knowledgeable, engaging and presentable in her delivery of the subject matter. Pretty much a classroom style course, with many different aspects to think about and to further study. Many books and materials discuss in the course are great reads, and I think literature enthusiasts would enjoy them as I did. I need to catch up to the modern books on the subject for sure, but classics we all know are explained in a new light.
Date published: 2023-10-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Moralizing The approach to the material is uneven. It can be scholarly, but an agenda is evident. The selection of novels is reasonable overall, but there are some outliers. The storyline can be sidelined by the treatment of character, setting and point of view and then lost. The lecture’s manner of delivery seems aimed at a decidedly young audience. I found the injection of ideology forced. The following example is typical. She frames the themes of sexuality and the power of the state in the three great dystopian novels (Brave New World, We and 1984) in postmodern terms following Michel Foucault. However, these are novels not real life, power and sexuality play out in the worlds created by the authors and owe nothing to postmodern theory, developed much later. This aside, Foucault (The History of Sexuality) did not include the power of the state within the purview of his theory (“By power, I do not mean … mechanisms that ensure the subservience of the citizens of a given state.”). The lecturer also injects material that is polemical. In an overview of feminism, she comments on second wave feminists saying that they were white, middle, and upper class, straight, educated and thinking mostly of their own group interests. She goes on to amplify this criticism in terms of instances of exclusion from a third-wave perspective. A balanced (scholarly) appraisal of second wave feminism would acknowledge its transformative accomplishments.
Date published: 2023-09-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Course's Subject is hijacked by agenda. I was in disbelief that the lecturer most likely mentions terms such as "gender", "feminist" and "sex" more than "literature" or "dystopian/utopian". As I have read the reviews here, I am not alone. I don't mind if there is a course by this or other lecturers that talks about the aforementioned topics, but I object to the misleading title. I got this course because I wanted to learn about the subject in the title, not to be lectured about sexual matters such as gender theory. Sure, in some of the texts it is worth mentioning that the author is a feminist. But it seems to me that for this lecturer, she can see gender ideology where there is none. I guess this is a sign of the times. I'd like to add that, as one top review here mentioned, I admire the older "classroom style" courses where it doesn't feel like the lecturer is sticking to a script. For example two of my favourite lecturers on TTC were Rick Roderick and Daniel Robinson. Their courses were immensely engaging and had a feel of spontaneous genius and the occasional anecdote or digression that made them even more interesting. Whereas with this course, it feels like a ready-made slightly indoctrinated take on the great works of literature.
Date published: 2023-08-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing The lecturer addresses the audience at a middle school level. The subject matter is feminism, LGBT, and a dose of Marx. Nothing wrong with these themes penetrating such a course by any means. However, the subject matter is in essence is not a course on utopian and dystopian literature, thought and related social evolution. I watched it via the great courses collection subscription so fortunately did not spend incremental dollars on it.
Date published: 2023-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 5 stars given rarely but deserved for this course. The professor is engaging and enthusiastic but not pretentious, overly familiar, or distracting. No “dud” lectures or mandatory-but-boring background/history. Up-to-date yet thorough. Overall an ideal balance of entertainment and education. Recommending this course itself to local book club.
Date published: 2023-02-22
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Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature delivers 24 illuminating lectures which plunge you into the history and development of utopian ideas and their dystopian counterparts. You'll encounter some of the most powerful and influential texts in this genre as you travel centuries into the past and thousands of years into the future, through worlds that are beautiful, laughable, terrifying, and always thought-provoking.


Pamela Bedore

Long before "Utopia" was published, humans have tried to find a shared understanding of what a perfect society might look like, and more importantly, how it can be achieved.


University of Connecticut

Pamela Bedore is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches courses in American Literature, Popular Culture, and Genre Fiction. She holds undergraduate degrees in English and Education from Queen's University, a Master's from Simon Fraser University, and a PhD from the University of Rochester.

Dr. Bedore has published widely on science fiction, detective fiction, and writing administration, in such journals as Foundations: The International Review of Science Fiction, Studies in Popular Culture, and Writing Program Administrator. She is the book review editor for Clues: A Journal of Detection. Her first book, Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction, was published in 2013. Dr. Bedore has examined such diverse phenomena of popular culture as vampires and zombies in the financial news, gay detectives in nineteenth-century dime novels, and the teaching of monster culture.

Winner of AAUP (American Association of University Professors) Excellence Awards in Teaching Promise and then in Teaching Innovation, Dr. Bedore has taught innovate literature courses including American Detective Fiction, Stephen King and Cultural Theory, The Monster in Literature and Culture, and Sherlock Holmes and Media Studies.

By This Professor

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature


Utopia: The Perfect Nowhere

01: Utopia: The Perfect Nowhere

Enter the world of utopian and dystopian fiction. After a brief foray into the definition and origin of utopia, dive into Ursula K. LeGuin's short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas and explore the ambiguities of "perfect" worlds. Then, get a deeper understanding of the ways genre functions and how it shapes literature....

30 min
Thomas More and Utopian Origins

02: Thomas More and Utopian Origins

Take a step back and learn about the origins of the utopian genre, beginning with Thomas More's Utopia of 1516. More's foundational work gave us the word "utopia," but did it create the genre? Explore the elements of the story to see how it set conventions for later works but also critiqued the very idea of utopia in the process....

32 min
Swift, Voltaire, and Utopian Satire

03: Swift, Voltaire, and Utopian Satire

Continue your exploration of the early history of utopia by examining notable works produced during the two centuries following More's initial work. Compare and contrast the ideas of "classical utopia" and "critical utopia" and understand how laughter was an integral part of 18th-century utopian storytelling, focusing on Voltaire's Candide and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels....

31 min
American Dreamers: Hawthorne and Alcott

04: American Dreamers: Hawthorne and Alcott

The 19th century was the "century of utopia" and also marked the transition from utopian to dystopian stories in popular literature. Look at Americans who attempted to build real-world utopias, and in turn examine the work of two authors who reacted to the American attempt at perfect societies: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. Consider the ways that optimistic, utopian thinking is integr...

32 min
Samuel Butler and Utopian Technologies

05: Samuel Butler and Utopian Technologies

Shift your attention from rural American utopias to explore from a different perspective: Victorian anxieties about technology and the vanishing frontier. Analyze these fears in Samuel Butler's Erewhon, which utilizes utopian conventions and heavy doses of satire to critique religion, health, education, and humanity's increasingly complex relationship to machines....

32 min
Edward Bellamy and Utopian Activism

06: Edward Bellamy and Utopian Activism

Can utopian literature have real-world impact? This question is integral to understanding the significance of Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. Witness the ways Bellamy's socialist vision of the future had genuine influence on the social activists of Gilded Age America. Professor Bedore also introduces the idea of "euchronia"-a form of utopia set in a different time rather than a different place...

31 min
H. G. Wells and Utopian Science Fiction

07: H. G. Wells and Utopian Science Fiction

Unlike the utopian tradition, science fiction doesn't have a single text that defines its origin. It does, however, have several figures credited with its creation. One such figure is H.G. Wells, who not only helped in the creation of science fiction as a genre, but was also deeply devoted to utopian thinking. Ultimately, his work brought utopia and science fiction together in the same space, high...

30 min
Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Gendered Utopia

08: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Gendered Utopia

Many utopian stories were concerned with "the woman question," or the quest to determine where women belong in an ideal society. Charlotte Perkins Gilman went a step further by creating a utopian society populated solely by women: Herland. See how questions of gender equality are reframed without the reference of an opposite gender and the impact of Gilman's vision on the feminist movements of the...

31 min
Yevgeny Zamyatin and Dystopian Uniformity

09: Yevgeny Zamyatin and Dystopian Uniformity

Shift your attention from utopian blueprints to the cautionary tales of dystopia and explore the origins of the genre and the complex ways it functions in literature. Examine the period between World War I and World War II that produced the "Big Three Dystopias" and dive into the earliest of them, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin....

31 min
Aldous Huxley and Dystopian Pleasure

10: Aldous Huxley and Dystopian Pleasure

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, published in 1932, is the second of the "Big Three" dystopian novels of the interwar years. Investigate the ways Huxley projects the anxieties of his day onto the future, creating a world in which people are controlled not by pain or fear, but by pleasure, and consider how utopian and dystopia are often only matters of perspective....

30 min
George Orwell and Totalitarian Dystopia

11: George Orwell and Totalitarian Dystopia

Perhaps the most famous of the three defining dystopias of the early 20th century, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has created a vocabulary of ideas we continue to use in political discourse today. Trace the ways Orwell uses language to shape his dystopic vision and the way it both reflects and distorts reality....

31 min
John Wyndham and Young Adult Dystopia

12: John Wyndham and Young Adult Dystopia

Published during the wave of anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, John Wyndham's The Chrysalids is one of the earliest examples of Young Adult dystopian fiction and a potent examination of the "fear of the Other" in dystopian storytelling. See how it set the stage for the extremely rich strain of dystopian literature aimed at younger readers that dominates bestseller lists in the 21st century....

30 min
Philip K. Dick's Dystopian Crime Prevention

13: Philip K. Dick's Dystopian Crime Prevention

Examine the parallels between social and political issues that become prominently reflected in science fiction literature as utopias and dystopias become less independent of each other. Look at the portrayal of community, choice, and rules to determine when the sacrifices being made cross the threshold between a completely perfect society and a complete lack of freedom. As the genre starts to tack...

31 min
Anthony Burgess, Free Will, and Dystopia

14: Anthony Burgess, Free Will, and Dystopia

Delve deeper into the central question of free will and how utopian studies respond emotionally and intellectually to this conundrum by examining A Clockwork Orange. Discover the literature that influenced it and was impacted by it, while exploring the nuanced differences between reading and watching this pivotal work. Burgess looks at extreme situations to pose questions we continue to struggle w...

32 min
The Feminist Utopian Movement of the 1970s

15: The Feminist Utopian Movement of the 1970s

The feminist utopian movement began in the 1970s and, despite the name, doesn't feature very many traditional "utopias." There is a guarded optimism represented in these novels that dealt with real-world issues of discrimination by creating societies portrayed as classless, crimeless, government-free, but laden with satire....

33 min
Ursula K. Le Guin and the Ambiguous Utopia

16: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Ambiguous Utopia

Delve into the science fiction-based worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, who approaches various situations with an open mind, drawing upon disciplines like physics, anthropology, and fine arts. She builds worlds in which people attempt all kinds of strategies of governance, including no governance at all. Discover how Le Guin uses sci-fi and utopia to explore LGBTQ issues with the intent to change our vi...

31 min
Samuel Delany and the Heterotopia

17: Samuel Delany and the Heterotopia

Focusing on Trouble on Triton, explore the ways Delany introduces readers to ambiguous heterotopia through a society where your identity (such as sex, race, religion, and sexual preference) can easily be changed. Investigate whether this abundance of individual freedom results in utopia or dystopia....

32 min
Octavia Butler and the Utopian Alien

18: Octavia Butler and the Utopian Alien

None of Octavia Butler's writings fit perfectly into the categories of utopia or dystopia, but she is vital to this study because her utopian writing represents a turning point that moves us from the feminist utopian renaissance of the 1970s to the more complex negotiation between utopian and dystopian impulses that helped shape the genres as they are today. In the first of two lectures focused on...

31 min
Octavia Butler and Utopian Hybridity

19: Octavia Butler and Utopian Hybridity

Examine the many ways Butler challenges boundaries-not only of genres, but also of human identity. In this lecture, you'll see how she tackles the questions that are important in defining utopian futures: what does it mean to be human? Is utopia always an unresolvable paradox? And if it is, does it have to be? How much can we change and still be considered human? And really, does being human even ...

30 min
Margaret Atwood and Environmental Dystopia

20: Margaret Atwood and Environmental Dystopia

Margaret Atwood is an icon in utopian and dystopian fiction. Explore the ways she has helped to shape utopian thought and sexual politics with one of her classic novels, The Handmaid's Tale, as well as her more recent MaddAddam trilogy. Atwood is known for apocalyptic writing but you'll see how even her darkest works have elements of humor and satire with intrinsic meaning....

30 min
Suzanne Collins and Dystopian Games

21: Suzanne Collins and Dystopian Games

Does it seem like a lot of the most popular books for young adults lately have been dystopias? In this lecture, explore why teens are so drawn to dystopia, what current anxieties are being tracked in this large body of YA literature, and what the impact of this literature on young adult readers has been. You'll also discover why this subgenre is so popular with adults....

30 min
Cyberpunk Dystopia: Doctorow and Anderson

22: Cyberpunk Dystopia: Doctorow and Anderson

The cyberpunk genre was developed in the 1980s and often features advanced information technology that allows much of the action to take place in cyber space rather than physical space, with an emphasis on the dangers and pleasures of the spaces between the cyber and physical worlds. Through satire or in earnest, we get at the same anxieties about contemporary American society: the internet has am...

31 min
Apocalyptic Literature in the 21st Century

23: Apocalyptic Literature in the 21st Century

Dive into the world of post-apocalyptic literature, which examines the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. Review the four major apocalyptic sources: technological, biomedical, environmental, or supernatural, and explore bodies of work that utilize each one. You'll see how even the worst dystopian situations often sneak hopes of utopian thinking into the stories because humanity survives on a core o...

30 min
The Future of Utopia and Dystopia

24: The Future of Utopia and Dystopia

Reflect on how dystopia shows us the darker side of contemporary reality right here in our connected global world, focusing on issues we struggle with every day: totalitarian government, new technologies, economic disparity, control of sexuality, and environmental degradation. Conclude with the recurring theme around utopian yearnings and the sinister road that leads to dystopia, proving that the ...

35 min