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Dr Chloe Houston – University of Reading

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  • Dr Chloe Houston

    Finding Utopia

Dr Chloe Houston

Chloe HoustonDr Chloё Houston's research is on early modern utopian fiction, or ideas about the ideal society in writing from the 16th and 17th centuries.

After reading Thomas More's Utopia as a student, she became fascinated by how people imagine ideal societies and by the contradictions within them.

"Utopia initially seems like a model society, especially compared to the social inequality of Tudor England, but it's such a playful book, full of jokes and irony, that it sometimes challenges the ideal nature of that society."

Living at a time which can seem more dystopian than utopian, we question how our own society functions, and our place within it. Through the 'Utopia' module that Chloe teaches, students encounter fictional ideal societies from More to the present day, and consider their own answers to philosophical questions such as what it means to lead a good life, and how we order society so that as many people live as well as possible.

Utopian texts also have much to tell us about the time in which they were written and their authors' own lives and values. In comparing different utopian texts, students evaluate how different writers imagine better societies and communities, and look at how utopias relate to certain historical moments. Using a blog which they compile over the term, students choose the themes and ideas which interest them the most and create their own pathway through the module.

"Teaching 'Utopia' is such a rewarding experience. I love hearing how students respond to these images of different societies and thinking about the bases on which any society can be considered ideal."

 

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