Books : reviews

Pamela Bedore.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature.
Great Courses. 2017

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 9 July 2020

This is the course guidebook that accompanies the 24 lecture “Great Course” of the same name. It is essentially an abbreviated transcript of each lecture, some related reading, and some “questions to consider” . (I watched the lectures, which is what I am reviewing here, and am using the book simply as an aide-memoire.)

We get a thorough overview of Utopian and Dystopian Literature, from Thomas More’s 1516 work Utopia, through the literature accompanying various social movements, and the relationship with satire. We hear about Swift, Voltaire, Alcott, Samuel Butler, Edward Bellamy, Charleotte Perkins Gilman, and more. Then the genre blends with Science Fiction, and we get Wells, Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell, Wyndham, Burgess, Le Guin, Octavia Butle, Delany, Atwood, and more, including the modern trend for young adult dystopias.

There are lots of interesting nuggets and insights, showing how more modern works draw on the structure and tropes introduced by their predecessors, and the historical context in which those predecessors were written.