Our first reading for the course is Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward, 2000-1887.
I have also assigned two sections from Phillip Wegner’s 2002 book Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity. The first Wegner reading discusses utopia and modernity in general terms, looking at utopia as a genre of imagined spaces that encourages readers to look critically at the present. The second section discusses Looking Backward –– which Wegner calls “the single most influential narrative utopia of the nineteenth century” –– in detail and elaborates its historical context.
For those of you who have been brave enough to offer to blog in this first week, I want to offer a little bit of guidance, or at least some ideas you can jump off from.
I suggest that you draw specific passages from the Bellamy (and from Wegner or any other critical or theoretical text that interests you) and explore a particular theme or idea that connects in some way to your research interests. Here are some of the key themes that strike me as interesting places to begin thinking about Bellamy’s novel.
- Utopia (in its various forms)
- Modernity (in the context of turn-of-the-century America or perhaps more broadly)
- Technology and the idea of techno-scientific progress
- Socialism, liberalism, and the idea of political progress
- US nationalism and its relationship to the rest of the globe
- Communication and media
- Labor and consumption
- Gender and sexuality
- Race and ethnicity (is it conspicuous by its absence?)
- Art and literature
If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress, just make sure you are logged in and then click here to make your blog post. Under “categories” in the right-hand sidebar of the “add new post” page, please check the box for the week in which you are posting (week 2 for now). You should also feel free to add tags that describe the subject matter of your post.
If you’re going to be posting at your own blog, please make a short post at this blog with a link to your entry when you have completed it.