(Post)Modernism and Utopia, Fall 2016

From Gerald R. Lucas
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87579 HUMN 4472.01 Online Fall 2016
0037-005 the prologue and the promise.jpg

After the devastations of the World Wars, the world was twice left reeling. In the aftermath, people searched for order amidst the chaos—a way to rebuild civilization so such events could never happen again. Many artists and thinkers felt alienated from national and intellectual traditions and began looking inward for answers. These (post)modernists esteemed the subjectivity of the individual as a way to order a new reality and combat traditional, totalizing ideologies and political systems.

The 20th century, therefore, saw the ascendency of the dystopian novel and visions of the apocalypse, perhaps as warnings or prognostications for an ever-increasing high-tech world. The aversion to totalizing attitudes ironically gives rise to the totalizing ideologies that dominated much of the twentieth century. This course will examine images of totalitarianism, dystopia, and resistance in the literature, music, film, and other cultural texts.

Fully Online

Before you go any further, please be aware that this section of HUMN 4472 is fully online. To understand the significance of this, read the following and consider carefully what it says. Only certain types of students excel in online courses. Are you one of them?


Welcome to HUMN 4472, Studies in Culture. The document you’re reading is your syllabus.[1] Everything you need for this class is on this page and linked off of it. Bookmark it now and return here if you get lost or confused, or you can always return to LitMUSE.

Since this is an online section, I have tried to make the lessons and procedures as simple to follow and to understand as possible. That said, there is bound to be a bit of confusion, at least at first. Do your best to work through it by carefully and completely reading this document (and links). I promise, there is an answer to your question. If all else fails, you may contact me, or ask a question on Slack (see below). Trust yourself to follow directions and find the answers. Be careful and deliberate.


This course will probably be unlike any college course you have ever taken. It is designed to let you — the students — discover and create your own knowledge using the powerful digital devices and platforms we all have access to. I’m assuming, since you’re taking this class online, that you are comfortable with working by yourself, are confident in your ability to take risks, do not need the constant reassurance of an authority figure, and have a basic Internet literacy. You will learn more about my approach shortly. Signup for Slack immediately and join the #utopia channel. Install the app on your mobile device or computer to begin using Slack.

Again, read this document through carefully before beginning. You might want to take notes as you go, jotting down questions you have. I bet they are answered by the time you’re ready to begin the first lesson.

Instructor Information

Instructor Information

Gerald R. Lucas
Office CoAS-117 (Macon campus), Department of Media, Culture & the Arts
Office Hours See Contact
Email gerald.lucas [at] mga [dot] edu

I try to make myself as available as much as possible during the first couple weeks of a semester, including evenings and weekends. If you need to chat with me, email me and we’ll arrange a video conference via Skype (or similar service), if necessary. Please do not expect a response after 5pm on weekdays or anytime during the weekend. I may be available, but I also need some down time. Thanks for your understanding.

Course Information

  • Credit: 3 hours
  • Prerequisites: At least a “C” in ENGL 1102/1102H
  • Description: This course will explore a selected topic in cultural studies from a historical perspective and a comparative perspective. This is a writing intensive course.
  • Lecture/Lab Hours: Three hours per week

Course Goals

Students who satisfactorily complete this course will be able to perform these goals. Students will

  • Be familiar with various forms and styles of the disciplines within the humanities and have a basic knowledge of terms, techniques, and media within the arts, specifically modernism;
  • Understand and apply formalist or “new critical” analyses to interdisciplinary texts;
  • Have a general knowledge of the influential and/or instigating effect of the visual arts, music, literature, sculpture, architecture, religion, and philosophy within the context of early 20th-century Western civilization;
  • Understand and illustrate the diversity in the various forms and styles of humanities in the early 20th century;
  • Apply critical thinking to the study of humanities, such that the student can see similarities and differences, make critical connections to the present, and understand the varying historical conditions which determine human values, particularly those that make up the modernist sensibility.

Required Texts

The following texts are required and must be purchased in some way, either on paper or as etexts. Several PDFs will also be required but will be provided via Slack.

  • Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. (1985).
  • Butler, Christopher. Modernism: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. (1989).
  • Mailer, Norman. An American Dream. (1965).
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. (1921).
  • Various links (Web sites, videos, and PDFs) within lessons; PDFs will generally be uploaded to Slack and “pinned” in #utopia.


Students are held accountable for knowing and practicing each of the following course policies. Consider them like the law: the excuse “I didn’t know” will carry no weight. In addition, students are responsible for reading, understanding, and adhering to all Middle Georgia State University student policies, including those linked on the Syllabus Policy page.[2]

Drop Date
July 6, 2016

Students may withdraw from the course and earn a grade of “W” up to and including the midterm date. After midterm, students who withdraw will receive a grade of “WF.” Students are encouraged to read the withdrawal policy before dropping/withdrawing from class.

Assignments and Deadlines

Your work represents you. Everything you turn in for evaluation should exemplify the very best of your professional self. Late work is unacceptable and will receive a zero. Technical problems do not excuse late work. Plan ahead and turn in your work on time. Last-minute work submissions are ineligible for revision for a higher grade.


Attendance for online courses is based on consistent participation. While students may work within lessons at their own pace, there will be assignments and milestones due regularly, usually each week. In other words: students are required to submit work each week to remain in good-standing. I recommend working a bit every day for consistency and to facilitate learning. Any registered student who does not submit work the first week will be counted as a no-show. Large gaps in participation (more than a week of not working) will be grounds for failure.


Communication is integral to success, no matter what we’re talking about. In a digital world, these literacies are particularly important. Not only should you develop and perfect your communication skills while in college, you need to use those skills everyday with your peers and professors.


Evaluation depends on overall student performance: depending on the successful completion of all requirements, participation, and attitude. Some requirements are weighed heavier in evaluation, but all are essential to successfully complete the class. Letter grades are based upon a traditional ten-point scale. Grades for this class will be based on the point system.


Willful or accidental plagiarism will result in automatic failure of this class (with a grade of an “F”) and will be pursued to incite the utmost penalty for such dishonesty. Academic falsehood, in any form, will constitute class failure.


All writing in this course should be supported with both primary (readings I assign you) and secondary (sources you find yourself) texts. All suppositions must be supported with evidence, whether they appear on a forum post, a blog post, a Wikipedia article, or class discussion. In other words: research is an integral component of everything you do in this course. Any ideas that are not supported might as well not be written.

Technology Requirements

All students should have a newish computer with dependable Internet access. A tablet for reading PDFs is convenient, but not a requirement of the course. Students should check the course site daily for updates. Students are responsible for working out all of their technical difficulties.


Students’ final grades are composed of three requirements: Research/Response Posts, a Revised, Expanded Post, and participation.

Please read the assignment schedule below at the beginning of the semester, so you have an understanding of what will be expected of you and when it is due. Some posts will take longer to complete than others, like those on longer texts. Work a bit every day — do not procrastinate.

Research/Response Posts (RRP)

For all major texts covered in class, students will be asked to read and/or view them, research critical viewpoints on those texts, and compose their own unique response to those texts.

RRPs require composing a critical response on the primary text by building an argument about it supported by secondary texts. Each of RRP will be posted to the Humanities Index, our class publication.

Each lesson will follow the same procedure:

  1. Read, view, or listen to the primary text;
  2. Research various secondary texts (criticism) about the primary text;
  3. Respond with an original, critical essay of your own that makes an argument that develops and supports it using the secondary texts you found in your research; and Submit that response to HumX for evaluation and possible publication.

For more details on this requirement, see: “Research and Response Posts

Consider this a final research essay. Choose one of your favorite RRPs and expand it by doing more research on the topic and increasing the scope of your argument and coverage. Follow the same procedure for the RRPs above; make it a “super” post. You may submit it anytime during the semester, but 12/6 is the last day these are accepted.


This grade will cover any other assignments not outlined above. It will also be based on interaction with others throughout the semester.

Assignment Schedule

Due dates are indicated in parentheses after the lesson’s title; they are always on Tuesdays by midnight.

Read each lesson carefully at the beginning of the semester and be aware of the due date. Most will require careful planning and organization. Know what each requires and do not procrastinate. The majority of failures happen because students ignore this advice.

Set Up (8/23)

  • Review: Syllabus; all posts under LitMUSE Essentials; Medium Help — especially Getting Started. Be sure to take the Slack tutorial (in-app or via Slack Guides) so you know how to use it (it’s very easy).
  • Read: “Humanities Basics” and “Online Basics” and take the quiz (also linked at the bottom of “Online Basics”).
  • Research: Posting on Medium. Figure out how a Medium post differs from a traditional essay written in Word. What are the best practices for composing a “story” on Medium? Read some posts from HumX.
  • Respond: Create an account on Medium and on Slack. On Slack, introduce yourself in #utopia, discuss what you plan to learn this semester in this course, indicate what you still have questions about, and share your Medium login name (I need this to add you as a writer to HumX).

Orientation (8/23)

  • Review: Syllabus
  • Read: Butler, from Modernism (try to read the whole work, but particularly chapter 4: “Modernism and Politics”); Rabkin “Utopia and Atavism” (PDF); Lucas “Utopian Fiction” (Web)
  • Research: Utopia (and Dystopia); Modernism
  • Respond: On Slack (in #utopia), discuss the five most important points you learned about Modernism and Utopia. What did your research uncover about utopia and/or dystopia? (Before posting, be sure to read what others have posted first; if someone has written it, don’t repeat them. You may, however, add to or nuance what someone else has written. Any repetition will cost you points. The idea is for us to get a general understanding of these ideas; do not try to be exhaustive in your response. Use the @ to address or refer to someone.) Be sure to include links to your research. See: Academic Forum Posts.

Sinister Fruitiness (8/30)

  • Read: Gibson “The Gernsback Continuum” (PDF); Fagen “I.G.Y.” (YouTube; Lyrics); Butler, “The ‘Postmodern Condition” (PDF) from Postmodernism.
  • Research: Gibson and Fagen; postmodernism. There are several good responses right here on Medium — and even some questions for consideration. How do these texts address the theme of the perfect society?
  • Respond: For your first HumX post, compare our two texts for this week, bringing in your research from this week and last. How do these texts play with (post)modernist ideas? Remember, Medium is not Word: your post should include at least an image and use correct digital citation for your sources.

The Waste Land (9/6)

  • Read: Eliot, The Waste Land (Bartleby)
  • Research: Any aspect of Eliot’s poem. There are several video lectures on YouTube and plenty on the web to help you with this difficult poem. Find sources that emphasize utopian themes.
  • Respond: On HumX, do a close reading of any section of The Waste Land and discuss how that section relates to and helps clarify the rest of the poem. How does it build on your understanding of modernism? Are there any utopian elements at work here?

Building the Myth (9/13)

  • Read: Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (1935)
  • Research: Find an analysis or commentary (or several) on Triumph of the Will. Find one or two that discuss the Nazi’s use of symbolism in building the myth of the Third Reich. Concentrate less on what is spoken in the film and more on the power of the visuals and the music.
  • Respond: Take a still shot from the film and discuss its effect. How does it relate to the overall themes of the film, like power, myth, and nationalism? How does is relate to the ideas we’ve looked at so far in class? How might it shed light on our current political climate in the US? Or, are there similar ideas at play in the myth of the “United States”?

We the Cogs (09/27)

  • Read: Zamyatin, We (1921)
  • Research: Criticism (analysis and interpretation) of We.
  • Respond: Compose any response you’d like on We that addresses the class’ concerns. Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.

Open Week (10/04)

  • Read: Some poetry, some visual art, some music, etc. [Suggestions forthcoming]
  • Research: Criticism on what you read.
  • Respond: Make some connections between two texts from two different media you read for this week. Link them in some way to the concerns of the course. This post can be done on Slack or Medium (for HumX) if it’s more formal.

Embracing the Hip, or Don’t Be Square, Man (10/11)

  • Read: Mailer, “The White Negro” (Web) and 1st Advertisement (PDF — also includes “WN”)
  • Research: Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself and “The White Negro.” You might start at The Mailer Review.
  • Respond: What is the role of violence in personal expression, freedom, and rebellion? Can we have freedom without risk? How is race significant in Mailer’s figuration of the Hipster? What is the responsibility of the artist to his or her society? Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.

American Dream (10/25)

  • Read: Mailer, An American Dream (1965)
  • Research: Mailer’s An American Dream. You might start at The Mailer Review.
  • Respond: Many critics have responded to the irony of Mailer’s title. In what way do you interpret the title’s significance for the novel? Does Mailer connote a pejorative sense of “dream”? What aspects of the American Dream does Mailer critique in the novel? Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.

Bodies for the State (11/08)

  • Read: Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • Research: The Handmaid’s Tale. You might also watch the film (on-campus link).
  • Respond: Are our bodies ultimately our own? What responsibility do we have to the state, especially at times of crisis? When is living for someone else’s sense of duty and responsibility too much to bear? What other issues do you see in the the novel or film that concern individual freedom versus social responsibility? Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.

Determined at Birth (11/15)

  • Read: Niccol, Gattaca (1997); (on-campus link)
  • Research: Reviews and commentaries on Gattaca.
  • Respond: In what ways do our genetics determine our place in the world — in society? What does Gattaca suggest about race, class, and sex and their public significance? Are we ultimately determined by them? Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.

Last Light (12/6)

  • Read: Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1989)
  • Research: The novel. You might also watch the film (on-campus link).
  • Respond: Discuss some aspect of loyalty and politics and what Remains seems to suggest about their role in our lives and how we think of ourselves as citizens, workers, and human beings. What utopian dreams are at work in the novel’s characters? What do they lead to in the end? Be sure to cite at least one secondary source in your response, though more is better.
  • Note: Last day to submit your Revised, Expanded Post.


  1. This is a hypertextual document from Dr. Lucas’ course web site LitMUSE and is not intended for print. The most current and accurate course information will always be online.
  2. See the MGA website's Syllabus Policy Page the policies linked thereon.