Fall 2008

Utopia/Dystopia and the Law

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-09


Ethan H. MacAdam (Section 01)


Law has long been as central to the literary genre of utopian/dystopian writing as this genre has been to the legal imagination. Most schools of legal thought aim in some way at the optimization of human social existence; conversely, utopian narratives consistently portray different juridical systems that are productive of peace, morality and beauty, while dystopian texts explore (often very similar) systems as leading to various sorts of totalitarianism, madness and disaster. In studying a range of cases, literary texts, and works of legal and critical theory, this course will pursue multiple lines of inquiry: Why should law and utopian/dystopian literature share this mutual affinity, and how does each discourse enrich or hamper the other? How do the inner complexities of these discourses condition that affinity? Where do we find legal and utopian discourse at odds, and why? How does history shape our answers to all these questions, as well as to the question of why our own era seems to prefer dystopian narrative to its utopian counterpart? Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor MacAdam.