courses / Summer 2012 / Reading & Composition Session D

Rhetoric 1A/1B
1A-001  No Place Like Home: Rhetoric and Contemporary Dystopian Fiction
1B-002  American Natures: Environments, Territories, and Battlefields
1B-001  dead words / unsettled bodies
Undergraduate Courses
Graduate Courses

Summer 2012

1A 001 - Reading & Composition Session D


In this introductory writing course we will explore contemporary
dystopian narratives. The success of Suzanne Collins’ hugely popular
novel, The Hunger Games, shows that dystopian fiction speaks
powerfully to a contemporary, mass audience. What makes these dark
stories about worlds gone awry so compelling to today’s readers?
Apparently they are more compelling than utopian fiction (can you name
a recent Hollywood movie about a utopia…)—but why? Are they effective
forms of social and political critique, or merely escapist fantasies?
What type of readers do their authors (and publishers) imagine?

In order to answer these questions, we will start with a brief
introduction to the rhetorical device of allegory and consider a
classic example from Plato’s Republic. We will then move forward and
look at the early-modern blueprint that later utopian--and
dystopian--fiction is built on: Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. With a
basic sense of how allegory works as a rhetorical tool, and an
understanding of the utopian literary genre, we will read three
contemporary dystopias: Alan Moore and David Llyod’s serialized
graphic novel, V for Vendetta (1982-9); Nobel Prize winner José
Saramago’s political allegory, Blindness (1997), and Suzanne Collins’
young-adult hit, The Hunger Games (2008). Our discussion of these
texts will be supplemented with short theoretical readings on related

This course fulfills the first part (A) of the L&S Reading and
Composition requirement. The primary goal is to teach students to
read analytically and write persuasively. In addition to reading
assignments, style exercises, and in-class discussion, students will
develop their own theses about the books into argumentative essays.
Over the six-week course students will write and revise three essays,
for a total of 32 pages of evaluated writing. Because this is a
rhetoric course, we will be paying special attention to aspects such
as authorial voice, genre, and audience. Note that the 6-week summer
session is an intensive course. Students will be expected to manage
daily reading assignments.