The “Let’s Talk Books!” series I’m beginning on this blog is soon going to be full of book reviews and recommendations! But for my first issue, I want to talk about a wonderful gem of a course I’ve stumbled upon and somehow had the blessing to be able to take this semester. A fair warning: this post may seem like it was some kind of required discussion for class. Quite the contrary, actually — I just get really passionate about the things I learn sometimes. I promise this is entirely a voluntary discussion, a product of my nerdy side, and coming solely from the desire to share my thoughts.
At TCU, we have certain classes we must take to fulfill a core curriculum requirement. These courses aim to broaden our degree of knowledge and comprehension of the world, regardless of major. When signing up for classes last November, I found out about this class called “Introduction to Fiction: Utopias and Dystopias.” Unfortunately, it had filled up quickly, and I was waitlisted — until the weekend before spring semester started, and I grabbed a spot in the class! Now if you know me, you know I love to read — and if you know I love to read, you may or may not have heard me talking about how much I love dystopian fiction!
Why do I love dystopian fiction so much, you ask? Maybe it’s because it incorporates so many themes of societal psychology and human nature. As a psych minor/fanatic, if there’s anything I adore the most in this world, it’s the deliberate oversimplification of complex human behavior and explaining it through psychological impulses and tendencies. (I’m half kidding.) Also, dystopian novels are both enthralling and horrifying in that they typically take a common ill of modern society and exaggerate it out of proportion to show how obviously it impacts the world.
For example, in this class, we just read a short story by George Saunders called “The Semplica Girl Diaries.” I don’t want to give away too much (because you should read it yourself and be shocked!) but it’s easy to make a connection between the SGs in the story and our modern norms of society. We’ve also read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, a short story which caused quite the outrage among readers upon its publication (some sources indicate that the story may have even been banned in some schools.) Both of these stories are perfect demonstrations of how blowing a societal norm out of proportion leads to horrifying ends and implications.
(Side note: I know I’m a total nerd, but if any of you have read these stories and want to enthusiastically discuss them with me, I’m totally down. Because I’m a nerd.)
Currently, as I mentioned in my last Life Updates post, we are reading The Children of Men by PD James. The synopsis for this adult dystopian fiction novel is that human beings have become sterile/infertile, the last babies being born in 1995. The year is 2021, and the world is bleak and deteriorating from widespread suicide and depression. (I mean, after all, what incentive is there to live fruitfully when the concept of procreation has become obsolete? That sounded sarcastic, but it’s not.) Not to mention, England is now controlled a tyrannical Warden of England and his Council, whose agenda is more insidious than meets the eye. Though the beginning has been slow thanks to exposition and character introductions, I am really liking where this book is going.
The Children of Men is definitely a stark contrast from the previous book we read for this class, which was none other than The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Generally speaking, my friends were a little shocked that a required reading for a collegiate level course was a book we all read in middle school. But I am so glad that our professor had us begin the course with a story so familiar with our generation. Furthermore, I was surprised at the depth of the premise of The Hunger Games, much deeper than we’d ever delved into the book the last time I was required to read it in sixth grade. Something cool we discussed is that the book is essentially a Marxist critique. I’d never thought about it that way, but I suppose I have a fairly limited knowledge of late-19th century socieoeconomic doctrines, anyway.
Maybe one day I’ll go more into depth about this. Probably not specifically the Marxist critique part. But really, keep your eyes peeled for a different kind of review of The Hunger Games from me, specifically an explanation and justification of why I really dislike Katniss, the main character. But not today… This is a discussion for another time.
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