ENGL410-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Picture (Im)Perfect: Utopia and Dystopia in Literature

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


Utopia is a term coined by Sir Thomas More in the sixteenth century, a play on Greek for both "no place" and a "good place", setting up an imaginative projection of an idealised socio-political "place". Alongside the domain of the ideal, there is an equally compelling tradition of projecting dystopian visions: the "dark mirror" of the writers’ concerns. The focus of the course is both on texts and theories surrounding these trends in envisioning the desires and anxieties of particular cultures and individuals, examining treatises, fantasies, essays and other speculative fiction. Plotting an historical course through this domain, we will also be questioning the shifting ideals represented, and the kinds of social and political positioning engendered in the shifts. While students will expected to read a number of key texts in the thematic "genres" of utopian or dystopian subjects, and relevant theory, there will also be sufficient opportunity to view other examples and map out the differences and similarities in representation that different choices of texts negotiate.

Learning Outcomes

  • In this course you will learn:
  • to develop skills in textual and contextual reading and writing, and the application of critical reasoning to utopian / dystopian texts and contexts;
  • to further develop research skills in examining the politics of identity, technology and assumed benefits and dangers to society intrinsic to speculative literature;
  • to explore the relationships between taste and cultural politics in terms of the production and consumption of utopian / dystopian works.


Subject to approval of the Head of Department.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Daniel Bedggood


Philip Armstrong


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay One 50% Approximately 5,000 words
Essay Two 50% Approximately 5,000 words

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts (in course order):
• More, Thomas; Utopia;
• Swift, Jonathan; Gulliver’s Travels;
• Butler, Samuel; Erewhon;
• Yevgeny Zamyatin, We;  
• Dick, Philip K; Do androids dream of electric sheep?
• Le Guin, Ursula; The Dispossessed;
• Saramago, José; The Stone Raft;
• Lockwood, Patricia; No One is Talking About This;
• Banks, Iain M; The Player of Games.

In addition, supplementary readings of shorter texts and theoretical material will be prepared and available on Learn.

(Image: "The Garden City Concept" by Ebenezer Howard, licensed under public domain.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,990.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 5 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All ENGL410 Occurrences

  • ENGL410-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023