Scribner Seminar Program
Imagining the Future
Instructor(s): Barbara Black, English
In this course, we will take up the intriguing work of imagining the future. Our readings will primarily come from an extraordinary trove of utopian and dystopian fiction: Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. We will travel across time and geography as these remarkable authors’ “thought experiments” invite us to investigate the history of the future—to go back to the future. Yes, we will discuss the movie Back to the Future, as well as the classic Blade Runner and Spike Jonze’s brilliant rendering of the near future, Her. In our seminar's final weeks, we’ll turn to those issues that preoccupy us today in respect to our multiple futures—ranging from the contours of post-pandemic life to battles over climate justice to protest movements variously dedicated to race, class, or gender equity. Here some incisive contemporary voices will guide our discussions: What and who will be our future? What will our world look like? Will we have a future? As we engage with these questions, we will encounter both terror and hope and possibly, at some moments, something that feels like optimism.