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Terris L S Patterson
ENGL 242
Seattle Campus

Reading Prose Fiction

Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.

Class description

Our analysis will focus on different dystopias of governmental control, how evolutions in mass-market media and technology either reinforce or inhibit their development, and finally how these mechanisms manifest themselves among different social classes and immigrant populations. It includes both classic texts as well as recent additions to the genre that will certainly become classics: Bradbury’s elucidation on the potential effects of literary censorship in Fahrenheit 451, Huxley’s chilling portrait of an almost unrecognizable repression in the form of a society drugged into perpetual happiness in Brave New World, and Orwell’s dystopian vision of a government that uses fear to control the masses in Nineteen Eighty-Four are all timeless. Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tail portrays similar abhorrent conditions but in a current context, while simultaneously addressing the lack of female agency in contemporary society. Moore’s V for Vendetta, which was brilliantly adapted for film, bridges multiple literary barriers by portraying the historically oldest tale of control and rebellion in the form of a graphic novel. Once we have surveyed these chilling tales of control, the class will turn its attention to­ the recent rise of state-sponsored technologies of surveillance and application. Postman’s Technopoly charts the technology’s historical progression through three defined periods; in the current and final stage, technology overtakes culture and replaces many of the established fabrics of society: interpersonal communications, religion, education, and various social institutions. DeLillo’s White Noise centers on the media and advertising, claiming that its presence predominates to such an extent that people have become oblivious, mindless corporate-dictated consumption robots.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

class discussion

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
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Last Update by Terris L S Patterson
Date: 02/26/2012