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127011 KO Critical Readings in Literature (2021W)

Dystopian Fiction and the Critique of Capitalism

6.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work
Tu 05.10. 18:15-19:45 Digital


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 26 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

This course will combine both synchronous (i.e. specified time) and asynchronous (i.e. unspecified time) participation.
Every week, you will find recorded videos and audio recordings of lectures (approx. 40-50 minutes in length) on Moodle at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled course section (i.e. the Sunday before the class session, at the latest). During that 48-hour period, students are expected to watch (or listen to the audio of) these lectures before the scheduled course time. On the days and times set aside for the course session (Tuesdays from 18:15-19:45), students join an online Question & Answer session on Zoom (link on Moodle) only for the last 45 minutes of the scheduled course slot (from 19:00 onward).

Tuesday 12.10. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 19.10. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 09.11. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 16.11. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 23.11. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 30.11. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 07.12. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 14.12. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 11.01. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 18.01. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital
Tuesday 25.01. 18:15 - 19:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Looking back at the early-to-mid 20th century and its impact upon modern civilization, historian Eric Hobsbawm writes: “The decades from the outbreak of the First World War to the aftermath of the Second, was an Age of Catastrophe for this society” (Age of Extremes, 1994). Reacting to the disasters and calamities of this era, novelists from the 1930s onward prophesied what the future would look like if technological development, imperial expansion, environmental destruction, war and conflict, concentrated wealth, alienation, and financialization were to continue unabated. These concerns crystallized in the development of Dystopian Fiction (from Greek: ‘dys’, bad + ‘tópos’, place). Authors of this particular genre shared a fear that society was on a path rushing headlong into collapse. However, many of these authors differed in their view of precisely what this collapse would look like, and how societies (e.g. governments, institutions, communities) would react to it. Nevertheless, these authors mostly agreed that Dystopias arise out of the material, structural, and economic instabilities that shape the modern world.

This Critical Readings course will focus on Dystopian Fiction, and some key texts within this genre. Using the “critique of capitalism” as an analytical paradigm, we will consider how political economy, capital accumulation, and class struggle directly bear on a range of cultural and social concerns, such as: race, gender, corporate surveillance, national identity, and climate change. Broadly speaking, such a critique will clarify the contradictory power-relations that continue to bring about global instability and decay.

Course outcome:
• Students will be able to identify different critical fields and theoretical concepts used in literary and cultural analysis.
• Students will be able recognize different features of Dystopian Fiction and how they relate to social critique and cultural politics.
• Students will be able to understand how ‘theory’ and ‘critique’ operate as useful scholarly tools within the field of literary studies.

Assessment and permitted materials

-Four 500-to-800-word Response Essays, in which students respond to prompts/questions (given on the syllabus) offering their own views/opinions.

-Final Project, wherein students may choose from 3 types of projects: 1.) Podcast co-interview with classmate; 2.) Book Review of one of the assigned novels/texts; 3.) Anti-/pro-capitalist speech, manifesto, or pamphlet

-Participation in Synchronous Course discussion and Q&A.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

4 x Response Essays (15 points each)=60 points
Final Project=30 points
Participation in Discussion=10 points
Total points: 100

Grading scale:
1: 100-90p
2: 89-80p
3: 79-70p
4: 69-60p
5: 59-0p

Examination topics

Reading list

Primary Texts:
1. 1984, by George Orwell
2. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K Le Guin
3. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
4. Devil on the Cross, by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Theory/Secondary Texts:
1. Capitalist Realism; Is There No Alternative?, by Mark Fisher

All 5 books will soon be available for purchase at:
facultas Universitätsbuchhandlung am Campus
Altes AKH, Hof 1, Alser Straße 4/1/2/1

Additional reading, including other primary texts, will be provided on Moodle

Association in the course directory

Studium: BA 612; BEd 046/407
Code/Modul: BA08.3; BEd Modul 10
Lehrinhalt: 12-3000

Last modified: Mo 27.09.2021 11:48