Center for Fiction: Dystopian Fiction, Past and Present (Virtual Reading Group)
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: While The Center for Fiction hopes to reopen on April 6, instead of canceling their reading groups, they will run them remotely using Zoom. Please note they will follow the same schedule as the in-person sessions. This is a rapidly evolving and unpredictable situation, so we appreciate your understanding during this challenging time. If you have any questions email Head Librarian Allison Escoto at email@example.com.
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.
This series of discussions will be held on the following dates:
• March 10
• April 7
• May 5
• June 2
Books are not included in the cost of the class. Participants receive a 15% discount at The Center for Fiction bookstore.