ENGL 3840 American Literature 2

Fall 2017: Patriotic Dystopias: Supporting and Subverting the National Narrative through Science, Utopian, and Dystopian Fiction

In this course, we will look at science, utopian, and dystopian fiction specifically to explore how authors have used these genres to both uphold and tear down the National story as well as entering into political, scientific, and religious discourse. We will focus on texts that highlight the central tension in American political and social identity and literature between ideas of rugged individualism and the national unity (expressed in E pluribus unum, which was represented on the official U.S. Seal until 1956). In considering elements that have affected these shifting, fluid tensions between the self and society, our course material will include the emerging, historical themes of disillusionment, fragmentation, technological advances, disenfranchisement, (de)colonialism, and a mistrust of authority as well as explore the development of uniquely American literatures which have shaped and subverted the national identity.

The goals of the class include furthering student experience of the pleasures of exploring literary texts and reinforcing their skills in literary analysis and research. The course's pedagogy gives special attention to critical thinking and writing as a means of putting students in a continual process of interpreting, confronting, discovering, and discussing human experience within its cultural/historical context. In addition, students will craft their own theories and explore their own understandings of what makes America America.


  • Caesar's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century by Ignatius Donnelly (1890)
  • The Iron Heel by Jack London(1908)
  • Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (1959)
  • Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach (1975)
  • Heart of Azatlan by Rodolfo Anaya (1988)
  • Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko (1991)
  • High Aztech by Ernest Hogan (1992)
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

“Teaching is performed in generosity; learning is accomplished in joy.” -Louise Cowan, PhD

Aurelia Ann VonTress