While some critics, like Frederick Jameson, propose that utopia is a “meditation on the impossible,” others, like José Muñoz, insist that “we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.” Utopian and dystopian fictions tend to lead us back to the present and force us to confront the horrors of war, the ravages of capitalist exploitation, the violence of social hierarchies, and the ruinous peril of environmental decline. In the texts we will engage with, we will not be looking for answers to questions about what to do, nor should we expect to find maps to better futures. We will no doubt be confronted with dead ends, blasted landscapes, and empty gestures. But we will also find elegant aesthetic expressions of ruination, inspirational confrontations with obliteration, brilliant visions of endings, bureaucratic domination, human limitation, and necro-political chaos. We will search in the narratives of uprisings, zombification, cloning, nuclear disaster, refusal, solidarity, for opportunities to reimagine the world, ends, futures, time, place, person, possibility, art, desire, bodies, life, and death. This class will explore H.G. Wells’s classic novel The War of the Worlds, and the films Wall-E and The Lego Movie, and more.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS
Jack Halberstam is the David Feinson Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of seven books, including Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters; Female Masculinity; In A Queer Time and Place; The Queer Art of Failure; Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal; and a short book titled Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance. Halberstam’s latest book is titled Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality, and the built environment. Halberstam is now finishing a second volume on wildness titled Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse. Halberstam was recently the subject of a short film titled So We Moved by Adam Pendleton, which played at MoMA NYC until January 30, 2022.