Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature

Join an award-winning professor to examine a wide range of literary works extending from the peaceful to the nightmarish, and from the conservative to the subversive.
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 59.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Your Utopia, My Dystopia Oh boy, it is painfully ironic to have sat through this course in these times...Painful and ironic. It is painful because I should have loved this course. The first half of the curriculum introduced the genre and covered all the classics. Professor Bedore did a great job of building a framework for the analysis of Utopic-Dystopic literature and engagingly presenting the works of all the usual suspects, from More to Orwell. But somewhere along the way, Dystopian futures got reduced to admonitions about the oppressiveness of religion, anti-communism, economic freedom, and a metastasizing definition of misogyny and other gender phobias, for just about the other half of the course. Look, I get it. Behind all these contemporary revolutions in though – some are even playing out today -- there must have been some literature dealing with it, some even good literature. Well, cover some of it. But what else are you ignoring, what other human aspirations or fears are you disrespecting by doing so? Take Liberty; Liberty as much more than “libertinism.” It would have helped to have covered Harrison Bergeron, Anthem, anything by Heinlein, e.g. Even a non-revisionist recalling of why books became dangerous in Fahrenheit 451's dystopia would have been useful. Sadly, the course pet causes and blind spots would leave a young student trying survive in America's educational-cultural-techno-media ecosystem unprepared to appreciate the most tangible threats to his, hers, or their intellectual integrity: Soft Despotism, if you comply; Cancellation, if you do not. I am frustrated, but not enough to rate this course below its intrinsic value. So, Four Stars.
Date published: 2021-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed this course! My compliments to Professor Bedore! This is a well organized and well presented course on a timely topic! While I had previously read several of the books covered in the course, I gained important new insights from Professor Bedore's discussions of those books. The course also introduced me to about a dozen new authors and their books, that I can pursue in the future. Professor Bedore is an effective lecturer with a lot of enthusiasm for this topic. She motivated me to think about a lot of aspects of utopias and dystopias that I had not considered. I would certainly watch another course present by her.
Date published: 2021-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great instructor, engaging material I really enjoyed this course. An incredibly informative overview of utopian and dystopian literature through the centuries, this course provided me with a strong desire to follow up and read a number of the books and materials covered here. In addition, Professor Bedore was simply a joy. She approached the course with energy, aplomb, and a clear love for the topic. I would gladly view any other courses from her.
Date published: 2021-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best of Times, The Worst of Times What a terrific course! Dr. Bedore provided a great deal of information stretching from early imaginative expressions of utopia to current day utopias and dystopias. I was motivated to go back to certain favorites (The Left Hand of Darkness and Octavia Butler's genius works--Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) but also to look into many works that I might not have come across (will I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road?). Content, illustrations, and Dr. Bedore's delivery were all excellent. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2021-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly Informative Utopia and dystopia cover such a wide range that the entire subject would take a lot more lectures. What is covered here is 24 lectures based on at least nuggets of getting to know more about the genre(?) and I found some working knowledge and some unexpected future reading. So, success!
Date published: 2020-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating, but definitely loaded I have been streaming the lectures in preparation for co-teaching a course in dystopian literature, partially to see how someone else tackles the subject and also to 'catch up' on the genre as I've started my own research. In that respect, this course was a good choice. Dr. Bedore is entertaining and knowledgeable (though I'd love to hear more about the historical aspects, i.e. the role of the dime novel in the rise of popular fiction— she only deals with this briefly and it's clearly something she has much greater depth of experience with), and she did a great job of making connections between the individual lectures with her overall themes. She is a warm, funny speaker who knows what she likes and builds a lot of ethos and pathos by sharing her own experiences and preferences with the viewer as she discusses these works. I will also say that I appreciated that she wasn't cagey about her agenda, even if I disagreed with her. On the subject of agendas, I've read other student reviews since finishing the lectures and agree that she makes a large part of the course about 'feminist' and 'LGBTQ' themes. Some of this attention is helpful, since speculative fiction welcomes all kinds of writers and topics, many who are important pioneers in the field. However, it can be heavy-handed and patronizing at times, especially when it comes to the critical interpretations of different works/authors. I think what would have made the course a '5 star' is not the omission of these topics, but showing the other side of the critical literature/interpretation. Dr. Bedore begins to do this in a couple places—i.e., that a liberal agenda can be just as much a subject for dystopian/utopian works as a conservative one— but this isn't entirely successful. In the end, I can say that I was challenged to listen to some of her points, and while we are not in accord on the best way to interpret or represent these texts, I'm grateful for the chance to learn from her.
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Every utopia is a dystopia to some I watched this at a time I could do a session daily. Which gave me time to think of one session before moving on to the next. The course inspired me to re-read 1984 and Brave New World.
Date published: 2020-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Watch This. What a fabulous course. Links to social history and author backgrounds. If everybody had this lady as an English teacher what a well informed lot we would be. The works spanning 500 years have gobsmacking relevance to today. Fans of the matrix, lord of the rings, Harry Potter, marvel stories, Star Wars, social reformers, power hungry leaders. What an eye opener. Can only hope it can gain a bigger audience. Superb.
Date published: 2020-05-19
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Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature delivers 24 illuminating lectures which plunge you into the history and development of utopian ideas and their dystopian counterparts. You'll encounter some of the most powerful and influential texts in this genre as you travel centuries into the past and thousands of years into the future, through worlds that are beautiful, laughable, terrifying, and always thought-provoking.


Pamela Bedore
Pamela Bedore

Long before "Utopia" was published, humans have tried to find a shared understanding of what a perfect society might look like, and more importantly, how it can be achieved.


University of Connecticut

Pamela Bedore is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches courses in American Literature, Popular Culture, and Genre Fiction. She holds undergraduate degrees in English and Education from Queen's University, a Master's from Simon Fraser University, and a PhD from the University of Rochester.

Dr. Bedore has published widely on science fiction, detective fiction, and writing administration, in such journals as Foundations: The International Review of Science Fiction, Studies in Popular Culture, and Writing Program Administrator. She is the book review editor for Clues: A Journal of Detection. Her first book, Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction, was published in 2013. Dr. Bedore has examined such diverse phenomena of popular culture as vampires and zombies in the financial news, gay detectives in nineteenth-century dime novels, and the teaching of monster culture.

Winner of AAUP (American Association of University Professors) Excellence Awards in Teaching Promise and then in Teaching Innovation, Dr. Bedore has taught innovate literature courses including American Detective Fiction, Stephen King and Cultural Theory, The Monster in Literature and Culture, and Sherlock Holmes and Media Studies.

By This Professor

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature
Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature


Utopia: The Perfect Nowhere

01: Utopia: The Perfect Nowhere

Enter the world of utopian and dystopian fiction. After a brief foray into the definition and origin of utopia, dive into Ursula K. LeGuin's short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas and explore the ambiguities of "perfect" worlds. Then, get a deeper understanding of the ways genre functions and how it shapes literature....

30 min
Thomas More and Utopian Origins

02: Thomas More and Utopian Origins

Take a step back and learn about the origins of the utopian genre, beginning with Thomas More's Utopia of 1516. More's foundational work gave us the word "utopia," but did it create the genre? Explore the elements of the story to see how it set conventions for later works but also critiqued the very idea of utopia in the process....

32 min
Swift, Voltaire, and Utopian Satire

03: Swift, Voltaire, and Utopian Satire

Continue your exploration of the early history of utopia by examining notable works produced during the two centuries following More's initial work. Compare and contrast the ideas of "classical utopia" and "critical utopia" and understand how laughter was an integral part of 18th-century utopian storytelling, focusing on Voltaire's Candide and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels....

31 min
American Dreamers: Hawthorne and Alcott

04: American Dreamers: Hawthorne and Alcott

The 19th century was the "century of utopia" and also marked the transition from utopian to dystopian stories in popular literature. Look at Americans who attempted to build real-world utopias, and in turn examine the work of two authors who reacted to the American attempt at perfect societies: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. Consider the ways that optimistic, utopian thinking is integr...

32 min
Samuel Butler and Utopian Technologies

05: Samuel Butler and Utopian Technologies

Shift your attention from rural American utopias to explore from a different perspective: Victorian anxieties about technology and the vanishing frontier. Analyze these fears in Samuel Butler's Erewhon, which utilizes utopian conventions and heavy doses of satire to critique religion, health, education, and humanity's increasingly complex relationship to machines....

32 min
Edward Bellamy and Utopian Activism

06: Edward Bellamy and Utopian Activism

Can utopian literature have real-world impact? This question is integral to understanding the significance of Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. Witness the ways Bellamy's socialist vision of the future had genuine influence on the social activists of Gilded Age America. Professor Bedore also introduces the idea of "euchronia"-a form of utopia set in a different time rather than a different place...

31 min
H. G. Wells and Utopian Science Fiction

07: H. G. Wells and Utopian Science Fiction

Unlike the utopian tradition, science fiction doesn't have a single text that defines its origin. It does, however, have several figures credited with its creation. One such figure is H.G. Wells, who not only helped in the creation of science fiction as a genre, but was also deeply devoted to utopian thinking. Ultimately, his work brought utopia and science fiction together in the same space, high...

30 min
Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Gendered Utopia

08: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Gendered Utopia

Many utopian stories were concerned with "the woman question," or the quest to determine where women belong in an ideal society. Charlotte Perkins Gilman went a step further by creating a utopian society populated solely by women: Herland. See how questions of gender equality are reframed without the reference of an opposite gender and the impact of Gilman's vision on the feminist movements of the...

31 min
Yevgeny Zamyatin and Dystopian Uniformity

09: Yevgeny Zamyatin and Dystopian Uniformity

Shift your attention from utopian blueprints to the cautionary tales of dystopia and explore the origins of the genre and the complex ways it functions in literature. Examine the period between World War I and World War II that produced the "Big Three Dystopias" and dive into the earliest of them, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin....

31 min
Aldous Huxley and Dystopian Pleasure

10: Aldous Huxley and Dystopian Pleasure

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, published in 1932, is the second of the "Big Three" dystopian novels of the interwar years. Investigate the ways Huxley projects the anxieties of his day onto the future, creating a world in which people are controlled not by pain or fear, but by pleasure, and consider how utopian and dystopia are often only matters of perspective....

30 min
George Orwell and Totalitarian Dystopia

11: George Orwell and Totalitarian Dystopia

Perhaps the most famous of the three defining dystopias of the early 20th century, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has created a vocabulary of ideas we continue to use in political discourse today. Trace the ways Orwell uses language to shape his dystopic vision and the way it both reflects and distorts reality....

31 min
John Wyndham and Young Adult Dystopia

12: John Wyndham and Young Adult Dystopia

Published during the wave of anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, John Wyndham's The Chrysalids is one of the earliest examples of Young Adult dystopian fiction and a potent examination of the "fear of the Other" in dystopian storytelling. See how it set the stage for the extremely rich strain of dystopian literature aimed at younger readers that dominates bestseller lists in the 21st century....

30 min
Philip K. Dick's Dystopian Crime Prevention

13: Philip K. Dick's Dystopian Crime Prevention

Examine the parallels between social and political issues that become prominently reflected in science fiction literature as utopias and dystopias become less independent of each other. Look at the portrayal of community, choice, and rules to determine when the sacrifices being made cross the threshold between a completely perfect society and a complete lack of freedom. As the genre starts to tack...

31 min
Anthony Burgess, Free Will, and Dystopia

14: Anthony Burgess, Free Will, and Dystopia

Delve deeper into the central question of free will and how utopian studies respond emotionally and intellectually to this conundrum by examining A Clockwork Orange. Discover the literature that influenced it and was impacted by it, while exploring the nuanced differences between reading and watching this pivotal work. Burgess looks at extreme situations to pose questions we continue to struggle w...

32 min
The Feminist Utopian Movement of the 1970s

15: The Feminist Utopian Movement of the 1970s

The feminist utopian movement began in the 1970s and, despite the name, doesn't feature very many traditional "utopias." There is a guarded optimism represented in these novels that dealt with real-world issues of discrimination by creating societies portrayed as classless, crimeless, government-free, but laden with satire....

33 min
Ursula K. Le Guin and the Ambiguous Utopia

16: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Ambiguous Utopia

Delve into the science fiction-based worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, who approaches various situations with an open mind, drawing upon disciplines like physics, anthropology, and fine arts. She builds worlds in which people attempt all kinds of strategies of governance, including no governance at all. Discover how Le Guin uses sci-fi and utopia to explore LGBTQ issues with the intent to change our vi...

31 min
Samuel Delany and the Heterotopia

17: Samuel Delany and the Heterotopia

Focusing on Trouble on Triton, explore the ways Delany introduces readers to ambiguous heterotopia through a society where your identity (such as sex, race, religion, and sexual preference) can easily be changed. Investigate whether this abundance of individual freedom results in utopia or dystopia....

32 min
Octavia Butler and the Utopian Alien

18: Octavia Butler and the Utopian Alien

None of Octavia Butler's writings fit perfectly into the categories of utopia or dystopia, but she is vital to this study because her utopian writing represents a turning point that moves us from the feminist utopian renaissance of the 1970s to the more complex negotiation between utopian and dystopian impulses that helped shape the genres as they are today. In the first of two lectures focused on...

31 min
Octavia Butler and Utopian Hybridity

19: Octavia Butler and Utopian Hybridity

Examine the many ways Butler challenges boundaries-not only of genres, but also of human identity. In this lecture, you'll see how she tackles the questions that are important in defining utopian futures: what does it mean to be human? Is utopia always an unresolvable paradox? And if it is, does it have to be? How much can we change and still be considered human? And really, does being human even ...

30 min
Margaret Atwood and Environmental Dystopia

20: Margaret Atwood and Environmental Dystopia

Margaret Atwood is an icon in utopian and dystopian fiction. Explore the ways she has helped to shape utopian thought and sexual politics with one of her classic novels, The Handmaid's Tale, as well as her more recent MaddAddam trilogy. Atwood is known for apocalyptic writing but you'll see how even her darkest works have elements of humor and satire with intrinsic meaning....

30 min
Suzanne Collins and Dystopian Games

21: Suzanne Collins and Dystopian Games

Does it seem like a lot of the most popular books for young adults lately have been dystopias? In this lecture, explore why teens are so drawn to dystopia, what current anxieties are being tracked in this large body of YA literature, and what the impact of this literature on young adult readers has been. You'll also discover why this subgenre is so popular with adults....

30 min
Cyberpunk Dystopia: Doctorow and Anderson

22: Cyberpunk Dystopia: Doctorow and Anderson

The cyberpunk genre was developed in the 1980s and often features advanced information technology that allows much of the action to take place in cyber space rather than physical space, with an emphasis on the dangers and pleasures of the spaces between the cyber and physical worlds. Through satire or in earnest, we get at the same anxieties about contemporary American society: the internet has am...

31 min
Apocalyptic Literature in the 21st Century

23: Apocalyptic Literature in the 21st Century

Dive into the world of post-apocalyptic literature, which examines the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. Review the four major apocalyptic sources: technological, biomedical, environmental, or supernatural, and explore bodies of work that utilize each one. You'll see how even the worst dystopian situations often sneak hopes of utopian thinking into the stories because humanity survives on a core o...

30 min
The Future of Utopia and Dystopia

24: The Future of Utopia and Dystopia

Reflect on how dystopia shows us the darker side of contemporary reality right here in our connected global world, focusing on issues we struggle with every day: totalitarian government, new technologies, economic disparity, control of sexuality, and environmental degradation. Conclude with the recurring theme around utopian yearnings and the sinister road that leads to dystopia, proving that the ...

35 min