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Reading Groups

Dystopian Fiction, Past and Present


Four Sessions

Out of stock

Once a month Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT March 10 to July 7, 2020

The Center for Fiction

This reading group will take place online via Zoom.

Meeting Dates:
3/10, 5/5, 6/2, 7/7

Rapid technological change. Declining social cohesion. Existential doubt about the nature of truth. We’ve been here before. The idea of continuous progress toward a perfect world has always been shadowed by the fear that, in our blind pursuit, we’d suddenly wake up and discover we had achieved the opposite – dystopia. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, what came to be known as the dystopian novel took shape, propelled by the dehumanizing aspects of the Industrial Revolution and the unprecedented destruction and death of World War I.

In their dark visions of the future, authors of dystopian fiction seek to illuminate the present, prompting questions the answers to which are always in flux. How much control does an individual have, if any, over the historical forces that shape our lives? What defines us as human? Is it subject to change? We’ll begin with two dystopian classics, Zamyatin’s We and Huxley’s Brave New World, followed by two recent examples of the form that infuse it with contemporary concerns, Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea and Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Translation.

Will reading these novels leave you less anxious about the fate of the world? It’s unlikely. Will they affect the way you think about not only the future, but the present and the past? Undoubtedly.

Participants should read We by Yevgeny Zamyatin for the first meeting.

Books are not included in the cost of the class. Participants receive a 15% discount at our bookstore.


Led By

  • MLChiLevinephoto

    Mike Levine

    Mike Levine

    Mike Levine is an independent editor. He was previously an acquisitions editor at Northwestern University Press. Among the authors he published were Jen Beagin (Whiting Award winner), A. E. Stallings (National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, finalist), and Stephen Karam (Pulitzer Prize in Drama, finalist). He has also been a senior editor at the Great Books Foundation. Since 2000, he has taught literature and film seminars in several continuing education programs. He has a PhD in English from Rice University.