Fall 2009

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. Indeed, most schools of legal thought aim in some way at the optimization of human beings' social existence; conversely, utopian narratives consistently portray different juridical systems which are productive of the highest forms of peace, prosperity, morality and beauty, while dystopian texts complimentarily explore (often very similar) systems as leading to various sorts of totalitarianism, madness and disaster.  In studying a range of 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 where does each discourse enrich or hamper the other?  How do the inner complexities of these discourses condition that affinity?  Where (despite this affinity) do we find legal and utopian discourse at odds, and why? (e.g., Why do we so often receive the impression that legal and political scholars reject utopian thinking as an impractical  dream or, worse, a recipe for dystopia?)  How does history condition 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.  Visiting Lecturer MacAdam.


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010