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Publisher's Summary

Can literature change our real world society? At its foundation, utopian and dystopian fiction asks a few seemingly simple questions aimed at doing just that. Who are we as a society? Who do we want to be? Who are we afraid we might become? When these questions are framed in the speculative versions of Heaven and Hell on earth, you won't find easy answers, but you will find tremendously insightful and often entertaining perspectives.

Utopian and dystopian writing sits at the crossroads of literature and other important academic disciplines such as philosophy, history, psychology, politics, and sociology. It serves as a useful tool to discuss our present condition and future prospects - to imagine a better tomorrow and warn of dangerous possibilities. To examine the future of mankind through detailed and fascinating stories that highlight and exploit our anxieties in adventurous, thought-provoking, and engaging ways. From Thomas More's foundational text Utopia published in 1516 to the 21st-century phenomenon of The Hunger Games, dive into stories that seek to find the best - and the worst - in humanity, with the hope of better understanding ourselves and the world. Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature delivers 24 illuminating lectures, led by Pamela Bedore, Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, which plunge you into the history and development of utopian ideas and their dystopian counterparts. You'll encounter some of the most powerful and influential texts in this genre as you travel centuries into the past and thousands of years into the future, through worlds that are beautiful, laughable, terrifying, and always thought-provoking.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A very enjoyable and educational audiobook

I won a free Audible credit from the Audiobook Addicts facebook group. I chose The Great Courses title Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses before and the topic really appealed to me. Professor Bedore does a fantastic job of presenting the material while keeping it very interesting for the listener. The course has twenty-four lessons totaling over twelve hours.

The course begins with a discussion of what Utopian and Dystopian mean. The next lesson starts the discussion of the first Utopian work by Thomas More. There are several lessons covering the other Utopian writers such as Swift and H. G. Wells. The course then moves on to the Dystopias. It covers much more than Orwell's 1984. The breath of the course is really amazing. It covers The Hunger Games and the Apocalyptic works of this century. The final lesson is on the future of the two genres.

The accompanied course guide, in Adobe pdf format, is amazing. It is over two hundred and forty pages of information. Each lesson has an outline of what is covered and a Suggested Reading section as well as Questions to consider. The Bibliography at the end is incredible. It is going to populate my to-read list for years to come.

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature was a very enjoyable and educational audiobook. I would recommend it for anyone who reads Utopian or Dystopian genres.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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A marvelous introduction to a new genre for me

Would you listen to Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature again? Why?

I would certainly listen to Prof Bedore's intelligently scripted, passionately delivered lectures again. It has hooked me and I am now watching the TV series The Handmaids Tale, something I may not have chosen before. I will also dust off my Clockwork Orange DVD and Brave New World now features on my audible wish list.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The obvious delight that the lecturer takes in delivering her subject. I need this kind of passionate delivery, I am not a great reader or an intellectual - seeming to fall more for conceptual, perhaps visual ideas, I was driving in my car in traffic ridden Johannesburg when the Prof delivered her take on Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange and I was instantly drawn into the spectacle of the Kubrick Masterpiece and resolve now to visit A Brave New World

Which scene was your favorite?

Many scenes captivated me. I had seen 1984 years ago and the film left me with a bleak, morose impression. I had not thought much about Utopian or Distopian narratives in intervening years up to now, but Prof Bedore's presentations has changed that. I am also intrigued by works of apocalyptic visions like Cormic McCarthy's the Road. Which I will now seek out, and the movie too.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The best and the worst of all possible worlds

Any additional comments?

I am not sure if there is more of Professor Bedore's work available on audio on this topic, if not, there should be

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Very good review of the genre of literature.

Very good review of the genre of literature. a must for writers and for anyone that wants to know more about what they are reading. It is of course only and over view and doesn't go into extremely great detail... But it is only 24 lectures long and there are many thousands of books in this genre. But some and start reading today.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating series

I listened to this alongside another Great Courses lecture series, How Great Science Fiction Works, and they are both excellent and informative, well worth the credit; they sometimes cover the same writers but it's interesting to hear both viewpoints. I noticed that some reviewers have marked Professor Bedore down for including feminist and gender-related utopian and dystopian fiction. But this is just what made this series especially interesting for me. Her discussion of Octavia Butler really stands out as a highlight, although every lecture is packed with information and delivered with enthusiasm. Overall it's clear that people who have traditionally been regarded as second class citizens for long periods of history have a completely different take on surviving a society that doesn't value them, and in turn they give us a whole new take on the meaning of utoptia or dystopia. And this is ultimately what makes science fiction stand out from other genres - new ideas, new ways of looking at ourselves. After listening to this series, I have added a lot of books to my "to read" list, and I will definitely be listening to this one again.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful introduction to The Great Courses

This was my first book from The Great Courses and I must say it was phenomenal. Utopian/dystopian novels are my favorite genre so it was really cool to hear a history or timeline of this type of story. I was so excited when I realized the audiobook came with a PDF complete with a list of "suggested readings" after each chapter! This is definitely something to read if you enjoy dystopias and are looking for more, less well known, stories (my wish list just got 20x longer)

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Misleading title but interesting course

The title of the course was a little misleading. "A postmodern critic of Utopian and Dystopian Literature" would have been a better name. There is a slight political bias present but that was probably unavoidable due to the subject matter. I enjoyed the course and it helped me to see the genre differently.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Highly topical, informative, and entertaining

Where does Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was one of the most enjoyable audiobook experience I have had.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

This audiobook, or rather lecture series made me genuinely excited about exploring Dystopian works of literature. The treatment seemed comprehensive but not tedious. Prof Bedfore was communicated her passion about the topic with clarity and humor. She expanded my view of this literature well beyond the basics.

It is also a highly topical since Dystopian works from The Handmaid's Tale to the Walking Dead, to the Hunger Games, to Wayward pines seem to be very popular now.

She also relates Utopian literature to the many failed attempts over the year to create real-life Utopias.

Finally, I am shocked that I never stumbled upon Russian author Zamyatin's Novel "We" which is features extraordinarily beautiful writing. One can see the direct line between WE and 1984 and Brave New world.

I felt enlighten after listening to the Prof's lectures.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Well, yes, if it is possible

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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The Best in-depth analysis of the genres

This course provided an in-depth study of utopian and dystopian lit through time. It began with the history of the genre, laying a great foundation and continuing to present day. All types of work and authors are covered, including a study in YA dystopian lit and some of the psychology behind why the genre has become so popular. It’s a checklist for anyone who is an avid reader of the style, or, for any would-be writer of the genre, it’s a study of the great works and authors with analysis of what makes these works popular and the interesting takes on the societies of the stories. From short stories to series, Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia to Gulliver’s Travels to The Giver to authors like Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler and Philip K Dick, from transcendent utopias to apocalyptic dystopias, Dr. Bedore takes you on an adventure you won’t want to end. She knows her stuff and it shows. I will be listening to this many times over.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Tracing a Genre; Exploring a Universe

Would you listen to Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature again? Why?

I would listen to this again because Professor Bedore's discussions are knowledgeable, humorous, thought-provoking. Also, she references many science fiction works that are not part of her detailed discussions, highlighting many authors.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

She asks questions about why utopias and dystopias change over time, helping us to consider historical, cultural and aesthetic dimensions. Some of her questions led me to consider other genres such as historical fiction or modern drama and those societal factors that brought them to our attention.

What about Professor Pamela Bedore’s performance did you like?

She provides insights and yet leaves much unanswered, creating curiosity for the listener. I have already ordered and read a few texts that she mentioned because I became very interested in her critique and her "I will leave this for you to discover" remarks.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. These chapters are entertaining yet dense. I listened to 2 or 3 chapters at a sitting.

Any additional comments?

Professor Bedore shares her own excitement about some works and has the breadth to reference Shakespeare or Faulkner as she delves into science fiction tropes and dimensions. She covers traditional literary standards and investigates feminism, marxism and even television adaptations to illumine our understanding of science fiction's reach.
I found she was balanced and self-deprecating, a sensitive and insightful teacher.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great if you only want book summaries

I'm about 3 hours into this course and am almost certain I will not be finishing it. It seems more geared to high school students.

The level of scholarship is poor. If you want to hear a book review / summary of what you have probably already read you might enjoy it. That's basically what it is, just recapping one book after another. So far very little discussion on the themes of utopian / dystopian fiction. It's as if the instructor didn't expect the listener to have read any of these works before.

The instructor's delivery is also hard to listen to. She loves to laugh at her own jokes and she narrates as if she is reading a story rather than lecturing a class.

I have approximately 15 Great Courses in my library, this is by the most disappointing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 06-27-17

I have been challenged to rethink.

I've had trouble with this book. It has forced me to look again at some of my views & values regarding Gender types, Young adult literature and many of my political views. I have not always liked what I've heard, but isnt that the whole point?

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Rogers
  • 07-10-18

An interesting cruise through the genre's key work

30 minute lectures on either an author or a single book. Interesting insights are provided on the genre, the human condition that leads to the creation of these stories, and the cultural norms that are reflected and questioned by the genre.

A good use of 12 hoirs of my life. Enjoyable and educational.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shane
  • 12-13-17

My first of the great courses

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with these series of books but found this to be extremely thought provoking and interesting to listen to. Only snag is now I’ve got so many books to look up I’m not sure when I’ll get to them all hahaha

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-20-17

A barrage of literary jargon.

If you’re interested in this lecturers opinions then I can recommend it. If you’re seeking factual details I advise anyone to look elsewhere.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful