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Unit information: Utopia (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2014/15

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Unit name Utopia (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST20075
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Evans
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Every era has had its social dreamers, who have attempted to imagine a better or ideal society. Far from being confined to merely literary expressions, utopias and utopianism can be found embodied in a diverse array of intentional communities, movements, and systems of thought. Indeed, utopia has been deployed for a variety of purposes throughout human history, and across a great diversity of cultures. A neologism coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516, the word 'utopia' combines the Greek words eu (good), ou (no), and topos (place), in order to literally mean "the good place that is no place". But is utopia a place that does not exist, or which cannot exist? Is it a useful source of hope and inspiration, or of contemplation and reflection? Or is it a dangerous fantasy that encourages and rationalises fanaticism in pursuit of an impossible goal? This course seeks to explore some of the many expressions of utopia and utopianism, focusing on the historical role and place of utopias and utopianism as they have related to politics, economics, society, and culture.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of how and why utopian ideals have evolved over time; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about how and why particular utopian visions have developed, how influential they have been and what contemporaries have thought about both particular visions and the pursuit of utopian ideals in general ; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini (eds.), Utopia Method Vision: the Use Value of Social Dreaming (2007)

Frederic Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: the Desire called Utopia and other Science Fictions (2007)

Barbara Goodwin (ed.), The Philosophy of Utopia (2001)

Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia (2000)

Krishnan Kumar, Utopianism, (1991)

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (1990)