From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge. Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.
From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics. Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column? Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.
This week’s column serves as an introduction to Dystopian Literature, a reminder of some of the genre’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.
Dystopian Literature can be defined as “a form of speculative fiction that began as a response to utopian literature.” Dystopian literature novels often offer a view of the future that is quite bleak. (Utopian Literature, on the other hand, is defined as “a style of fiction that takes place in an idealized world.”)
The main characteristics of the dystopian genre include government control, destruction of the environment, and survival.
Some examples of well-known authors who write Dystopian Literature include George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, and Octavia E. Butler.
Other popular authors include Anthony Burgess, Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Some well-known works include George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Dawn by Octavia E. Butler.
Other works include George Orwell’s A Clockwork Orange, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.
These works are set throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, and the former Soviet Union.
Many of these novels take place during the 19, 20, and 21-centuries, and well as in the future.
These novels may be of interest for readers who would like to learn about dystopian visions of the future, including themes of censorship, oppression, government overreach, advent of technology, the environment, and human survival.
AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth. Courses related to Dystopian Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works. (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)
Although AU does not have a specific course on Dystopian Literature, AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in the similar ENGL 387: Writing Speculative Fiction, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “develops speculative fiction (SF) writing skills through a combination of strategic study and writing activity.” Note that this course requires ENGL 381: Creative Writing in Prose or professor approval prior to registering.
Students may also be interested in ENGL 460: The Ecological Imagination, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “investigates the links among literature, culture, and the environment, asking students to consider the role of cultural and literary analysis in the face of climate crisis and ecological complexity.” Note that several junior, 200-level courses are required as prerequisites, including ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays. Happy reading!