Mid-Semester – ‘Looking Backwards’

We have had a productive six weeks so far in the ‘Hopeful Tomorrows’ classroom, and we’re edging towards the later nineteenth-century dawn of formal ‘science fiction’ this coming Friday, with Edward Bellamy and certainly next week when we hit H.G. Wells.

From my perspective the course seems to be working well as designed. We’re about to see students submit their first assessment efforts, and of our group of six at least three have opted to write creatively (to design their own small utopian fiction). I am very much looking forward to that, and to seeing which traditions and which sub-genres of utopian thinking they gravitate towards. I get the sense in 2019, in these days of smoke and anxiety, that students are drawn to increasingly dystopian themes. We are not doing Orwell or Huxley (and perhaps we really ought to be), but in our discussions of everything from More to Shelley students have been latching on to the terrifying prospects of total societal conformity and unbridled scientific ambition at least as frequently as they have identified visionary subjectivities or ‘plans for hope’. It’s perhaps not unexpected that a course about the most ‘hopeful’ of genres is also one which also investigates the bitter disappointments that genre is always addressing. I’m personally hopeful that the creative writing exercise proves a revelation for our group, it is entirely new to all of them.

An Open Access Graduate Course.

We’re doing something slightly different with this online course. It isn’t ‘massive’, it doesn’t pretend to revolutionise digital educational resources, and the aim is not to transform it into some kind of larger product or service (ala ‘Google University’ or FutureLearn).

Interactions will be pretty traditionally ‘WordPress’ in their look and feel. Anyone can make a comment on the week’s content, under ‘Course Content & Resources’, subject to approval. The MA students in the classroom can then choose to interact with the larger community of interested participants. Eventually, the MAs can choose to share their own creative and historical work on here, and people can discuss it. All of this activity will be monitored and moderated by the lecturers. No matter what level of engagement ends up being the norm, the site’s resources, readings, downloadable extracts, and linked content are free to all comers.