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WHAT WORLDS MAY COME: STUDIES FOR THE FUTURE

Leslie Donovan, ldonovan@unm.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION

French writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote that “When it comes to the future, our task is not to foresee it, but rather to enable it to happen.” In this course, we will explore what kinds of new worlds we hope to live in someday. To accomplish this, we will study visions of both near and far futures primarily in literature and popular culture, but also in fields such as popular social and natural science, sociology, and modern technology, among others. Our class discussions will explore the future as it appears in: popular music such as John Lennon’s “Imagine”; current environmental concerns, Star Trek and The Jetsons television shows; the colonization of Mars; concepts from the interdisciplinary field of Future Studies; classic as well as contemporary science fiction literature; social cartoons of imaginary inventions; artificial intelligence and robotics, and architecture of sustainable cities and buildings. Although many recent perspectives on the future are bleak or apocalyptic, our class will investigate primarily works that feature decidedly optimistic views in order to promote valid, possible futures for ourselves and those who come after us. In our efforts to envision real possibilities for our own tomorrows, we will work with two primary modes of examination: 1) Research, using traditional academic methods and source materials to develop papers and presentations; and 2) Imagination, in which you will be encouraged to construct the future creatively through writing or art.

READINGS AND TEXTS

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Nnedi Okorafor, Binti

David J. Rothkopf, The Great Questions of Tomorrow

A number of additional short readings and videos will be provided online through a course website.

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

1 substantial research project, 1 short paper on your own major in the future, 1 creative project, 1 final portfolio, weekly online discussion, attendance, and active class participation.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Leslie Donovan earned her B.A. in Creative Writing-Poetry and M.A. in English from UNM, followed by graduate programs in Iceland and Ireland before earning her Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Washington. She is an alumnus of UNM’s Honors College and currently teaches courses on the future, J.R.R Tolkien, creative expression, ancient and medieval subjects, and popular culture. She also has led Honors study abroad programs to England on Tolkien and Shakespeare.