Tag Archives: Ursula K. Le Guin

Brainstorming a Spring 2012 lit and politics course

(Image source) In addition to my Intro to Political Thought class at UMass Lowell, I’ll be teaching two new courses next semester: Intro to International Relations (also at UML) and Perspectives on Human-Animal Relations (at Tufts’ Experimental College). In the Spring, I’ve already approved a Global Food Politics course (my draft syllabus is Here) at UML, and am of thinking of submitting a similar proposal at the Excollege. After tearing through China Miéville’s The City and the City, though, I’m trying to craft a “politics and literature” course that would be sufficiently interdisciplinary to count as ‘experimental’ (i.e., not a ‘regular’ English department class). Here’s my hypothetical course description and book list; any book suggestions or thoughts on how I could proceed with this would be much appreciated!

Overlong potential title: “New Speculative Fiction and Political Philosophy: Stephenson, Le Guin, and Miéville on Anarchy and the State.”

Key Books: Snow Crash, The Lathe of Heaven, The Dispossessed, The City and the City. (To be interspersed with key works in modern political philosophy? I’d add four or five other books to this list, either from the list below or elsewhere.)

Other possible books or authors: Ubik (PKD), other words by Stephenson, The Windup Girl (Bacigalupi), The Left Hand of Darkness, Nick Sagan, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, P.D. James/Anthony Burgess (Children of Men or The Wanting Seed), Alan Moore. (And, if I were to cut out the “new” part, lots of people/works come to mind: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppes, Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, Melville’s Bartleby, Kafka, Orwell, Gogol, Asimov, Sturgeon…although some of these are political but not speculative.)

I’m not necessarily married to the idea of focusing on anarchy and the state, but I thought both Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Miéville’s The City and the City did exactly what speculative political fiction is supposed to do: to allow us to see how our conception of human nature is structured at least in part by our surroundings, and what that means for the way we construct our political systems. I haven’t yet read anything else by Miéville, but I’m about to start either Perdido Street Station (or Cloud Atlas). Any suggestions for other topics, books, or authors that would fit in this category?

Edit (mostly for my reference): Facebook brainstorm comments here.