Utopia: Philosophy and Literature - ENGL7140

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The module examines some key texts in the theory and literary presentation of utopia. In the first part of the module we will examine classic early utopian texts (Plato, More) and will set these in the context of the modern theory of historical progress (Hegel) the failure of that progress to materialise (Agamben) and the nature of hope for the future (Bloch). In the second part of the module, we will examine modern classics which look at the failure of the communist utopia (Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell) and at later texts which revived the genre of utopia (LeGuin, Atwood).


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:

Two essays (3,000 words each) (45% each)
Seminar performance (10%)

Indicative reading

Plato (repr. 2008), The Republic. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics.
More, Thomas (repr. 2012), Utopia. London: Penguin.
Hegel (repr. 2004), Introduction to The Philosophy of History. Minneola, NY: Dover.
Huxley, Aldous (repr. 2007), Brave New World, London: Vintage.
Orwell, George (repr. 2013), 1984. London: Penguin, 2013.
Atwood, Margaret (repr. 1996), The Handmaid's Tale. London: Vintage.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to demonstrate:

1. Analytical knowledge of aspects of the philosophy and theory of utopia from Plato to the present day;
2. An analytical, theoretical, and literary-critical understanding of selected key texts of twentieth-century utopian and dystopian literature;
3. An ability to relate the theoretical and literary texts to the historical pattern of events;
4. An in-depth understanding of the nature of the state and of the role played by speculative thought and imaginative literature in the analysis of the present and preparation for the future.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Form arguments using philosophical and literary-critical vocabulary;
2. Display strong presentation and group discussion skills;
3. Possess an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives making use of appropriate scholarly sources;
4. Identify appropriate research questions and demonstrate the ability to construct original, clear, well-substantiated arguments.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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