EN3UT-Utopia: The Ideal Society in English and American Literature

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Chloe Houston

Email: c.houston@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
Utopia is our way of thinking about the nature and possibility of an ideal society. The word ‘utopia’, coined by Thomas More in 1516, suggests both ‘good place’ (from the Greek, ‘eu-topos’) and ‘no place’ (‘ou-topos’): a place which is both ideal and non-existent. This module will introduce the idea of utopia from its earliest manifestations in western literature up to the present day. Reading a range of texts from different genres and periods of history, we will explore the development of utopian literature from its philosophical, satirical origins in the sixteenth century to the ecological utopias of the late twentieth century and beyond.

This module is designed to introduce students to a wide range of utopian literature in order to consider how and why people write about ideal societies. To what extent is it possible for a work of fiction to imagine a perfect world? Do such texts seek to effect social change and, if so, are they successful? What is the relationship between utopia and dystopia? In addressing these questions students will be able to explore the origins of science fiction, the relationship between utopia and travel writing, the role of utopia in politics and feminism, the theological component to utopias, and the development of dystopias or anti-utopias, amongst many other topics.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
•exercise skills of close textual analysis and produce critical readings of the primary texts selected for study
•demonstrate an awareness of the historical, social and cultural contexts within which the primary texts are produced
•recognize and describe the ways in which the utopia changes during the period studied in terms of both form and content
•engage critically with readings of the primary material presented in criticism and in seminar discussions
•organize and articulate a scholarly critical argument in writing, both in coursework and examination
•produce a learning journal in the form of an individual weblog for formative and summative assessment.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:
Texts may include:
Thomas More, Utopia (1516); Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (1626); Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moone (1638); Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World (1666); Henry Neville, Isle of Pines (1668); Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726); Samuel Johnson, Rasselas (1759); Edward Bellamy, Looking Backwards (1888); William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890); Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland (1915); Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974); Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1931); George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four (1949); Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (1975); Kim Stanley Robinson, Pacific Edge (1990).

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Three seminar hours weekly, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 30 1
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study 129.5 39
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:
Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 22 August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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