English 824: The Quest for Utopia



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English 824: The Quest for Utopia
Spring 2014 Section 02: M-W-F 10:00-10:50 Weiss Hall 0B035

Dr. Catherine Wiley Office hours: Mondays, 1:30-3:00 and by appt.

Diamond Peer Teacher: Elizabeth Kemmerer Office location: Anderson 913

E-mail: cawiley@temple.edu

(best way to reach me)
N’importe ou, hors de ce monde

No matter where, out of this world.

-Charles Baudelaire

The word utopia comes from the Greek: οú ("not") and τόπος ("place"). At the same time, the English homophone eutopia comes from the Greek εú ("good" or "well") and τόπος ("place"). Thus utopia has a double meaning: it is both no place and good place. This course explores the similarly paradoxical nature of the human endeavor to create a perfect world. If the belief in human progress and the desire for equality, happiness, perfection expresses the most noble impulses of man, then why do utopian communities fail to materialize? And if they do, why does the quest for perfection always contain within it the seeds of its own destruction? We will discover what visions of utopia and dystopia have existed in literature across time periods, countries, and disciplines. We will question what kinds of behavior, for better or worse, the quest for utopia brings about as we read and discuss the actions of individuals as they realize, or fail to realize, utopian perfection.


We will explore quests for utopia in a variety of literary genres and discover how the concept of a perfect world beyond our own has been re-imagined over several centuries. You will use these readings and our discussions of them to understand and critique modern-day utopias that exist today and to design your own original utopian community. The reading, writing, and group projects required in this course will increase your analytic thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, as well as give you space to engage with the questions posed in this course in critical and creative ways.
The quest for utopia brings about, and is reflective of, changes in how a culture sees itself, so our encounters with various utopian pursuits will help us better reflect upon our own relationship to the world around us. While always directed towards a world that is “no place,” the quest for utopia tells us about this world—and what it could be.
GenED Human Behavior Goals and Objectives Gen Ed Human Behavior courses address the relationships between individuals and communities. Human Behavior courses are intended to teach students how to:

  • Understand relationships between individuals and communities;

  • Understand theories or explanations of human behavior used to describe social phenomena;

  • Examine the development of individuals’ beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions and how these affect individuals and communities;

  • Apply one disciplinary method to understand human behavior or explain social phenomena;

  • Access and analyze materials related to individuals, communities or social phenomena; and

  • Compare and contrast similar social phenomena across individuals or communities.


Required Texts, available in the campus bookstore

  • Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward

  • Claeys, Gregory and Lyman Tower Sargent, eds., The Utopia Reader

  • Collins, Suzanne, The Hunger Games

  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, Herland

  • More, Thomas, Utopia

  • Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time

  • Various articles and materials available on Blackboard. Must be printed out and brought to class.

Course Requirements and Grading

Midterm: 25%

Group Presentation 25%

Final Paper 35%

Participation/homework/quizzes: 15%
Grading Scale

92.5% and higher = A

90.0 – 92.49% = A-

87.5% - 89.99% = B+

82.5% - 87.49% = B 

80% - 82.49% = B-

77.5% - 79.99% = C+

72.5% - 77.49% = C

70% - 72.49% = C- 

67.5% - 69.99% = D+

62.5% - 67.49% = D

60% - 62.49% - D-



59.99% and lower = F
Group Presentation: Your group project will take one of two forms: a plan for your utopia, or a report on a contemporary utopian project. Whichever project you choose, you will work with a group of 4-5 students to present your ideas to the class during the last three weeks of the term. You will not have to agree on all elements of the utopia you present), but you do have to plan a coherent 15-20 minute presentation. The presentation should blend oral presentation, text, and images.
Final: The final paper will synthesize the research and ideas you explored in the group presentation with the readings of this course. This will be a formal academic essay that should represent the culmination of your thinking about utopian writing and experiments as it has developed throughout this term.
Homework and Quizzes: I will assign homework occasionally, often a one-page response paper or answers to discussion questions. These will be graded and will count as part of your participation grade. More importantly, they will give you an idea of how well you are doing in the class. If you do not do well on these assignments, it would be a good idea to meet with me to discuss how you might improve before the more seriously-weighted graded assignments are due. Unannounced quizzes will occur any time I feel as though students are not doing the reading or reading carefully enough. These, too, will factor into your participation grade (15% of your overall course grade). There may also be times when I assign in-class writing exercises that will be graded as quizzes.
Attendance: For this course, regular attendance is mandatory, and will be recorded daily. Any more than 3 absences means that your class participation grade will be reduced by one-third of a letter, so: absence 4 = 1/3 (e.g. B to B-), absence 5 = 2/3 (e.g. B to C+), and absence 6 = a whole letter (e.g. B to C). More than six absences will result in an automatic class participation grade of ‘D.’ I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences: save your absences for times when you need them, such as illnesses.
E-mail: I will respond to e-mails within 48 hours (usually, but not always, sooner), except for those you send me on Friday afternoon, which I’ll respond to on Monday.
Disability Statement:

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability Resources and Services at 215- 204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The University has a policy on Student and Faculty and Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy #03.70.02) which can be accessed through the following link: http://policies.temple.edu/getdoc.asp?policy_no=03.70.02.
Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

[Excerpted from the Temple University Statement on Academic Honesty for Students in Undergraduate Courses]

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another person's labor: another person's ideas, words, or assistance. In general, all sources must be identified as clearly, accurately, and thoroughly as possible. Academic cheating is, in general terms, the thwarting or breaking of the general rules of academic work and/or the specific rules of individual courses. It includes falsifying data; submitting, without the instructor's approval, work in one course that was done for another; helping others to plagiarize or cheat from one's own or someone else's work; or actually doing the work of another person.

Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

The penalty for dishonesty can vary from a reprimand and receiving a failing grade for a particular assignment, to failure for the course, to suspension or expulsion from the University.



NOTE: If you plagiarize in my class you will fail the course. This is not negotiable. If you are uncertain about anything, ask BEFORE you hand in the work. It will be too late afterwards.
Reading Schedule

Note: the reading schedule is subject to change throughout the semester;

any revised schedules will be announced in class or posted to Blackboard.

If you have any questions about the schedule, email me.

Week 1

W Jan 22 Intro to the course: Syllabus and What is a Utopia?

F Jan 24 Utopia before Thomas More: READ from The Utopian Reader (UR): Lucian, “Saturnalia” UR 64-6; Amana Community, “The Twenty-One Rules for the Examination of Our Daily Lives” UR 186-7; and from Plato’s Republic, UR 27-56

Week 2

M Jan 27 Continue discussion of Plato’s Republic in UR (27-56); Michel de Montaigne, “The Cannibals” UR 99-103

W Jan 29 Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, link on Blackboard

F Jan 31 Freud, Civilization, cont’d


Week 3

M Feb 3 Edward Rothstein, “Utopia and its Discontents” (available on Blackboard); begin Thomas More’s Utopia

W Feb 5 Thomas More’s Utopia, cont’d

F Feb 7 Thomas More’s Utopia; R.W. Chambers, “The Meaning of Utopia” (in Utopia, Norton edition)


Week 4

M Feb 10 READ (all in UR) from the Book of Genesis (9-11); “The Millennium”: Revelation of St. John (67), II Baruch (67-68); “Monasticism”: The Rule of St. Benedict (68- 69), The Rule of St. Francis (70); “The Shakers” (182-186); Amana, or the Community of True Inspiration (186-190); Oneida ( 190-192)

W Feb. 12 Samuel Butler Erewhon UR 229-240

F Feb 14 Continue discussion of Butler



Week 5

M Feb 17 Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward

W Feb 19 Bellamy, cont.’d

F Feb 21 Bellamy, cont.’d



Week 6

M Feb 24 Bellamy, cont.’d

W Feb 26 Bellamy, cont.’d

F Feb 28 Bellamy reviews and criticism, available on Blackboard



M Mar 3 – F Mar 7 No class! Spring Break
Week 7

M Mar 10 Midterm Review

W Mar 12 Midterm Exam

F Mar 14 First In-class meeting for Group Project


Week 8

M Mar 17 Library Session; begin Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

W Mar 19 Gilman, Herland, cont’d.

Fri Mar 21 Gilman, Herland, cont’d.



Week 9

M Mar 24 Collins, The Hunger Games

W Mar 26 Collins, Hunger, cont.’d

F Mar 28 Collins, Hunger, cont.’d


Week 10

M Mar 31 Collins, Hunger, cont.’d

W Apr 2 Wrap up discussion of Hunger Games

F Apr 4 Second in-class meeting for Group Project


Week 11

M Apr 7 Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time

W Apr 9 Piercy, cont.’d

F Apr 11 Piercy, cont.’d



Week 12

M Apr 14 Piercy, cont.’d

W Apr 16 Piercy, cont.’d

F Apr 18 Wrap up Piercy discussion


Week 13

M Apr 21 Presentation Groups 1-2

W Apr 23 Presentation Groups 3-4

F Apr 25 Presentation Groups 5-6


Week 14

M Apr 28 Presentation Groups 7

W Apr 30 Paper Workshop

F May 2 Optional paper conferences


Week 15

M May 5 Paper workshop; Course wrap-up


Final paper due in my office by noon on Wednesday, May 7.



Eng824:02, Wiley, Spr14, Syllabus p. --



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