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HISTORY 32S: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares: Visions of the Ideal Society in Early Modern Britain

Visions of the ideal society are a mainstay in the European imagination, from Plato¿s Republic to Charles Fourier¿s phalanstère. Yet utopianism has always been maligned as idealistic, impracticable, or naïve, while its proponents accused variously of hypocrisy, totalitarianism, and abject failure. Nowhere more so has the utopian impulse been felt than in early modern Britain during the age of imperial, scientific, and industrial revolution. This course asks how British writers imagined better futures, starting with Thomas More¿s genre-defining Utopia and ending with the utopian socialists and communitarian experiments of the early nineteenth century. We will ask what utopias can tell us about the societies which imagined them, and appraise their lasting legacies in political thought, social science, and critical theory. Covering themes such as empire, capitalism, gender, enlightenment, and socialism, we will engage with a range of primary sources, including literary texts, cartographic images, political and scientific tracts, and letters, aided by secondary literature from the history of political thought, literary history, the history of science, and theory.
Terms: Spr | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-SI
Instructors: Cooper, J. (PI)
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