Literary evening lectures: Mapping imaginary topographies and times: Literary utopias from the Renaissance to the present

Course Dates: 17/05/18
Time: 19:40 - 21:00
Location: KS - Keeley Street

Come and enjoy monthly talks and discussion on authors and literary topics that influenced and continue to impact on our understanding of prose, poetry and drama.


What is the course about?

Want something stimulating to do after work?

Spend an hour at our Literary Evening Lectures, enjoying monthly talks and discussion on authors and
literary topics given by writers and academics from City Lit and beyond.

What will we cover?

This talk will consider the function of the literary utopia in political thinking. Thomas More's 1516 text, Utopia, coined a deliberately ambiguous term that signifies both eu-utopos (the “good place”) and ou-topos (“no place”) and used a complex framing device in which to couch his Renaissance vision of a perfect society. Since More’s originary text, then, the literary genre of utopia has encompassed a search for human perfection as well as the self-reflexive recognition that such a state of utopian governance cannot be achieved. From Francis Bacon’s scientific society in New Atlantis (1627) and Margaret Cavendish’s fantastical journey to The Blazing World (1666), Early Modern utopian narratives sought exotic utopian islands at the outer limits of the known world. By the late nineteenth century, however, such cartographic discoveries were no longer possible and utopian communities either moved across the galaxy or became projected into distant futures. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), William Morris’ News From Nowhere (1890) and H. G. Wells’ Men Like Gods (1923) all envisioned scientific and technological progress in the future, and their utopian travellers returned to the present with tales of socialism and advanced scientific development. By the 1960s and 1970s our belief in a better future was sufficiently enervated as to withdraw into self-contained utopias within otherwise dystopian texts - in novels by Marge Piercy, Joanna Russ and Ursula Le Guin. The talk will conclude by reflecting upon the sophistication of utopian narratives as a self-reflexive literary form, and their ongoing relevance for our own contemporary moment, at a time of increasingly dystopian political realities.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Understand more about authors, literary themes and topics related to fiction, poetry or drama, depending on the theme of the monthly talk.

Dr Caroline Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on the utopian imagination in contemporary literature, science fiction, apocalyptic narratives, and Western Marxism. She is author of Fictions of the Not Yet: Utopian Times in the 21st Century British Novel (forthcoming), and has co-edited two books on living writers: China Miéville: Critical Essays (Gylphi, 2015) and Maggie Gee: Critical Essays (Gylphi, 2015). Caroline is currently working on a second monograph, Arcadian Revenge: Utopia, Apocalypse and Science Fiction in the Era of Ecocatastrophe, which examines fictions of extreme environments, including Mars, Antarctica, the deep sea, and the centre of the Earth. She has published articles in Telos, Modern Fiction Studies, Textual Practice, Contemporary Literature, Subjectivity, and the New Statesman and is regularly involved in public events, having spoken at the Wellcome Trust, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Harvard University, the Academy of the Fine Arts in Vienna, King's College London, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, Hillingdon Literary Festival, the Museum of London, BBC One South East, and the LSE Literary Festival. Caroline is Secretary of the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS) and Editorial Director of the Open Library of Humanities.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The lecture is open to all those who enjoy learning about and discussing literature.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a lecture from the speaker followed by a Q&A session.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no extra costs.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other literature courses under History, Culture and Writing on our website,

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details


This course has now finished

Course Code: HLT132

Finished Thu, eve, 17 May - 17 May '18

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £9.00
Senior fee: £9.00
Concession: £9.00
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Please note: Different fees may apply for international students. Read full guidance.