All posts tagged CCUL

Today, we discussed the end of Ship Breaker in a fishbowl!

We also discussed the Netflix series 3%, covering episodes 1, 2, and 4 (no spoilers if you finished the series over the weekend! We’ll watch a clip from the final episode and discuss it next class!) We started with a close reading of the introduction to The Process and what it means to have a society based on separation.

Once we completed our discussion, I gave you the remaining time to work in your teams on the propaganda project. We will discuss the group presentation and using Mahara to compile your propaganda artifacts on Wednesday, so for now continue working on the actual artifacts and your team presentation.


  1. Read the IndieWire article about the show’s “twist” ending
  2. Log into and explore
  3. Continue working on the propaganda project with your team

Friday is a team work day. You have options but you must MEET AS A TEAM during the 50 minutes of our class (if you do not attend your team meeting, it will count as an absence).

Your options include:

  1. Schedule a team meeting with Dr. Fitz between 8:05-11:55am
  2. Schedule a time to use the sound recording booth in Hall between 8:05-11:55am
  3. Meet in the Homer Rice classroom and work with Alison Valk (she has offered her expertise in a wide range of digital platforms including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, iMovie, and more)
    • Please send Alison an email letting her know if your team plans to work in Homer Rice and if you know of specific issues you are having or want help with, give her a heads up on that too (her contact info is on TSquare ->Announcements)
  4. Meet in another location (multimedia studio, Paper and Clay, Invention Studio, Communication Center, our classroom) and work together as a team

You are welcome to mix and match these options (for example, schedule a meeting with Dr. Fitz at 8:05, then go to Paper and Clay OR schedule a time to meet with a tutor at the Communication Center and then go to the multimedia studio to finish and print your materials). Meetings with me and time in the sound booth will be first come first serve, so plan to sign up ASAP.

Today, we started by reflecting on the poster project and poster session from Friday. Be sure to store those reflections in a safe place, as they will come in handy in a few weeks!


Then, we started working through Ship Breaker, discussing chapters 1-10. In teams, you worked through the first ten chapters of the book and answered some major questions related to the world building of the novel.

  1. What are the various new religious/spiritual beliefs in this future world? Which characters are ascribed specifically to a religion?
  2. Where is Bright Sands Beach located? What elements of geography, terrain, topography or climate help you determine this?
  3. What does the hierarchy look like among the crew on the beach? In what order does an individual owe loyalty?
  4. How does the economy (both local and global) function in the future?

Once each team presented the answer to their area of research, we discussed the world building of the novel, compared it to others we have read, and discussed the importance of detail to creating a believable dystopia. We also discussed some of the elements of ecodystopia present in the text and how the CCUL reading for today helped you to see some of these world building elements differently.

Once we completed our discussion for the day, you remained in your teams to complete and sign your team charters and turn them in. Then, you spent the remaining class time working in your teams to brainstorm, plan, or continue work on your propaganda project.



  • Read Ship Breaker part 2 (Chapters 11-17, pg 118-217)
  • Read CCUL 9
  • Work on Propaganda Project with your team
    • Due April 17
Today in class, we started with a discussion of The Hunger Games pt 3, based on your Twitter discussion questions (see Storify below). We talked through some of the major developments of the end of the novel, then turned our attention to the article you read for class today, “Burn with Us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games,” by Susan Shau Ming Tan. We also talked a little about the concept of a feminist utopia/dystopia and discussed whether or not we thought Katniss might fit the description of a feminist dystopian hero.

After our discussion of the texts, we also spent a little time looking briefly at MLA citations and the purpose of using them within our own writing. We looked briefly at the new MLA 8 citation style, which we will continue to discuss in more detail later in the semester. You will want to be sure to keep your MLA handbook nearby as you research, locate sources, and work on artifacts that require citations.
You will write an MLA citation for your independent reading book and the Miller article on your own tonight and bring it to class on Wednesday (a digital version is fine, no need to print it out).
  1. Read “The Making of a Blockbuster” by Laura Miller (LIVETWEET + Discussion Q)
  2. Watch Mockingjay Pt 1 (LIVETWEET + Discussion Q)
  3. Write MLA citation for independent reading text and Miller article and bring to class (digital is fine)
    • Bring your MLA 8 handbook with you to class
OPTIONAL: Screening of Mockingjay Pt 1 (The third Hunger Games movie) at 4pm Monday, Jan 30

We started class by having each of you create a “Follow Friday” tweet, where you recommend accounts for other folks in class to follow. Keep working to curate your Twitter timelines so when it comes time to research, you have a wide variety of resources available to you.

Next I walked you through some sample infographics and we talked about what infographics can do well, where some of the ones we looked at fall short, how to keep audience in mind and how to balance images and text. Hopefully some of these examples gave you some ideas and inspiration for your own infographics.

I walked you through some of the key terms from CCUL – it is important that you have a strong grasp on some of the key terminology we are using in this course (utopia, anti-utopia, dystopia, science fiction, cognitive estrangement) as we move forward into some of the assignments. We talked about the historical evolution of dystopia as well as the way the CCUL formulates the overlaps between science fiction, romance and utopia/dystopia. It is important to note that the scholars who wrote these chapters in the CCUL are asserting their arguments and definitions of these terms; you are certainly welcome to disagree with those definitions provided you can support your own argument with reliable sources.

We finished class today with some time spent working on your infographics with your partners. If you were out today you should check in with your partner about this project as soon as possible.


  1. Read CCUL Chapter 8
  2. Read “Burn with Us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games,” Susan Shau Ming Tan, The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 37, Number 1, January 2013, pp. 54-73 (Article). DOI: 10.1353/uni.2013.0002
    • Access the article through the Project MUSE database through the Georgia Tech library.  Use the Library Ask a Librarian feature if you have trouble finding or accessing the database.
    • Be sure to LIVETWEET + tweet a Discussion Question for this article and CCUL 8
  3. Continue reading independent reading selection – you should be at least halfway finished by this point
  4. OPTIONAL: We will be screening The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 on Monday, to discuss on Wednesday (3rd film). If you have not seen Catching Fire (2nd film), you might want to watch it on your own.

We’ll discuss The Hunger Games pt 3 and your excellent discussion questions on Monday


Finding utopia.

The Greek, as seen above, can be translated (by Google Translate), “Dystopia, the opposite of a utopia. Where the future is worse than the present.”  This was the thought of many people when the use of dystopia began in the 1800s.  It was the imagination of darker times ahead versus the good times that the utopian literature focused on.

To the writer of The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, dystopia can be defined as world that is “too bad to be practical” (Claeys 16).  Or at least that is what he argued John Stuart Mill believed in his speech in 1868; it was the opposite of utopia.  To understand dystopia, we need to understand utopia.  The definition Claeys presents is that a utopia “is seen as a matter of attitude, as a kind of reaction to an undesirable present and an aspiration to overcome all difficulties by the imagination of possible alternatives” (Claeys 7).  The key difference seen between a utopia and dystopia is the hope and aspiration of a better future;  Claeys believed that the root of a utopia is the energy of hope (Claeys 7).

This is the 1932 movie Freaks. It was considered a horror film because of the strangeness of the characters. We now know that each of the characters had some form of special need, but in 1932, special needs was not diagnosed.


Now that we know what a dystopia is, we need to dig a little deeper before we compare dystopia and horror.  The reason I included the Greek text as the title was because when dystopia is broken down into its root words, one finds that dys comes from the Greek word dus, and means “bad, abnormal, diseased” (Claeys 16).  The great thing about the Greek language is its ability to add more meaning to English words.

When thinking dystopia and its definition and what other genres are similar to it, I immediately think of horror.  My English 1101 class was focused on horror and how the abnormality found in movies and books is what creates horror.  This is directly tied to the definition of dystopia; as seen by Claeys, a dystopia can be defined as an abnormal world.  That is what a horror film or book does to the audience; the producers and authors take what a society shuns or finds weird and makes that strangeness the horrifying element of a story.  This dynamic parallel between weirdness and horror is what captivates audiences into believing that the undesirable element of the story is horrifying.

In the end, the understanding of a dystopia from its Greek lineage can help illustrate the connection between the dystopian genre and its relative, the horror genre.


Works Cited

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge companion to utopian literature. Cambridge, Cambridge                   University Press, 2010.

Freaks. Dir. Tod Browning. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1932. Film. Web. 18 July 2016.

What is dystopia?

I think of dystopias as imagined societies created and shared in order to critique and/or caution readers of certain trends, norms, or social and political systems that the author deems as dangerous or undesirable. This is evident when dystopian works from different centuries or ages are compared to each other as observed in The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature by Gregory Claeys. The focus of the critique transforms as different social trends and norms come into place along with the new century. Admonishment of certain political and social systems changes with the current systems as well, for example, capitalism being critiqued in times of economic struggle or failure.

The authorities in dystopian societies create their dystopia as a solution to an issue or crisis that they are approaching or experiencing. These “solutions” paint a negative perspective of society as well as humankind on a fictional canvas. Dystopian societies often follow ridiculous rules and norms that may seem specific to that dystopia, but actually embody much broader aspects that are applicable to our current, non-fictional world. An example of this is in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. While the Capitol insists that the games are to keep peace (and to keep the people of the Capitol entertained), their actions actually translate into a general warning of government power and oppression.!!-:strip_icc-!!-/2014/10/17/760/n/1922283/0ce4c4b0f63f8eae_advice/i/When-Those-Big-Beautiful-Blue-Eyes-Pleading.gif

Combining dystopia with another genre doesn’t change my definition as the combination serves to focus the critical spotlight, illuminating the concept or behavior that the author most disagrees with. For example, a dystopia combined with the sci-fi genre critiques humans’ use of technology, often dissenting our efforts to mechanize and genetically engineer many aspects of our lives. Dystopias paired with the romantic genre are reproachful of repression of emotions. They might consist of a system where the citizens are all participants in a giant, computerized match-making program as observed in the dystopian novel, Matched by Ally Condie. The system might even prohibit or obstruct the citizens from expressing or feeling love.

Bringing dystopian literature into the YA field brings significance to the genre. Opening the younger generation’s eyes to the world of dystopia allows them to consciously and subconsciously absorb messages about society and humanity. Of course, other literature besides dystopia in the YA genre relays messages, but much stronger and deeper critique is provided through dystopia. The often shocking or disturbing worlds of dystopia are more captivating and can convey provocative concepts without being too philosophical to keep young readers’ attention.

Whether you’re actively looking for something that will change the way you view society, or just want something to sit down and enjoy, dystopia fiction will leave you with something to ponder.

Works cited:

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York, NY, Scholastic, 2008.

Condie, Ally. Matched. New York, NY, Dutton Books, 2010.

I originally defined a dystopia as a world in which the worst-case scenario became a reality. This definition is similar to how The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature defines a dystopia as a portrayal of “feasible negative visions of social and political development, cast principally in fictional form” (109). However, these definitions exclude much of science fiction due to its “extraordinary or utterly unrealistic features,” and I have come to believe feasibility is too subjective to be used to define a dystopia. To me, a dystopia is any fictional place in which the majority of people live in an undesirable condition and are relatively powerless to change it, often because they are kept unorganized, uninformed, and in fear.

The government in one of my favorite dystopian films, Equilibrium, maintains power by forcing people to take emotion-suppressing drugs and using an elite task force to further its own cause by any means necessary.

In The Matrix, a dystopia is achieved by keeping its people completely unaware of their oppression, and therefore unable to organize against it without being broken out.

I believe this broader definition allows dystopian literature to be more easily combined with other genres, especially science fiction.  Combining dystopian literature with YA literature brings interesting subjects of YA literature, such as growth and identity, into a dystopian world. In The Hunger Games, Katniss struggles with forming close relationships while also growing up with a single parent, which are issues many young adults can relate to or at least understand because of friends who may be in similar situations. I think relatability is especially important in dystopian characters because it allows readers to more easily put themselves in the characters’ shoes and understand life in a dystopia on a deeper level. The point of a dystopia is not whether or not the technology or apocalypse that created it is realistic enough, but how people in this fictional world live their lives in comparison to ours.

Works Cited:

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Inc., 2008.

Images courtesy of

I believe that similar to how science fiction is defined in the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, there is no entirely true or correct definition of a utopia or dystopia¹. Although there are common ways to define utopia, such as “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions”², each individual defines “perfection” of such aspects of life differently. Alternately, a dystopia is commonly defined as, “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives”³. Is it possible for these two definitions to be referring to the same society? Since the words “ideal”, “perfection” and even “people” are up to the reader’s (or writer’s) own interpretation, I believe that this is absolutely possible. For example, one person’s utopia could be a society in which he/she is a dictator and all around him/her are servants that make the author’s life better. When viewed from the dictator’s perspective, this is utopia; an ideal situation in which all aspects of life are in his/her favor. However, for everyone else, this could be considered dystopia, as they suffer under servitude and fear of their dictator.

Personally, I don’t have all too much experience with young adult dystopian literature, or at least I haven’t since about my freshman year of high school. When I imagine a dystopia from my own perspective, the image that pops into my head is one with bleak weather, torn down infrastructure and an oppressed society typically ruled by a grueling dictator, as portrayed in this photo here:

Figure 1 – A screenshot from the movie Children of Men, in which mankind in the near future is infertile and the UK is a police state.⁴

I believe that science fiction has actually played a big role in my experience with dystopias. I almost always associate a dystopian society with the future, in which technology has either taken over on its own or been used to ruin the world. The only dystopia I know that has a somewhat conflicting relationship with technology and my own idea of a dystopia is actually The Hunger Games. This is because this novel takes place in a society with far more advanced technology ranging from larger airships to holographic technologies, yet they resort to classical (or what could be considered even ancient) warfare during the games. What makes a dystopia “young adult,” however, seems more straightforward to me, as the ones I’ve read seem to point more towards a thrilling and imaginary tale rather than the analysis and exaggeration of an innate problem with our current society. Although these problems could still be drawn from the storyline, they are not quite as obviously related to our lives as readers. Examples of this include The Hunger Games series and the I Am Number Four series, the latter of which revolves around the inhabitation of Earth by ten foreign beings who wish to destroy the species that destroyed their own planet.

Works Cited:

1. Claeys, Gregory, editor. “Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to Utopian
Literature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2010, pp. 135–150.

2. “Utopia.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

3. “Dystopia.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

4. “Bleak Future – 12 of the Best Dystopian Sci-Fi Movies.” Imgur, 28 Oct. 2014,

The genre of dystopia plays such a dominant role in the development of our culture, even in the modern day, that it seems necessary to craft a definition for the term. The difficulty with confining such a broad, complex style of literature into a single description is there will always be significant details left out. How could someone define something that is constantly adapting to the atmosphere of society, consistently referenced, and continuously ever-present?


Gregory Claeys claims that dystopia as a genre “refers to imaginary places that were worse than real places” and goes on to say the concept is the “dark side” of the Utopian concept. While I fundamentally agree with his analysis, I have to think there is more to dystopian themes than simply portraying a universe completely opposite of society’s utopia. In my opinion, a dystopian literature is one that reveals the flaws of our society to such an extreme that it engulfs the written reality and twists it into the worst possible outcome for humanity. The commonalities in such stories, such as a Great War or a vast abandoned colony, come together to represent this epic doom hanging over our heads that could consume our future if the warnings from the story are not heeded.

Like many other genres, dystopian themes can be combined with other categories of literature such as science fiction or fantasy. When considering such styles paired together I do not see the meaning of dystopia changing; I believe the best elements of each genre come together to adapt the broad definition into a more cultivated mixture of ideals. Science fiction brings about technological innovation and new ways of thinking in the devastated, previously hopeless environment of a dystopia. Fantasy gives way to epic battles and unearthed magic that, when used correctly, can highlight the desolate dystopian themes.  Combining genres does not completely change the definition of a dystopia, it simply adjusts it to better fit the role it is made to fill.

When young adult themes are used to direct a dystopia, some slight changes in the genre can be seen. The authors, aiming to reach a wide range of ages from middle school to college, will create a broader story that could be applicable to many readers. The lessons they attempt to teach and the critiques they wish to be heard will be pushed slightly harder at the reader in order to ensure everyone receives some message from the book. The main characters in young adult dystopias typically mirror the projected audience in age, thought process, and interests. Overall, when an author aims to write a young adult dystopia the overall themes common in the genre remain with only slight changes to the style of writing.

Works Cited:

Claeys, Gregory. “The origins of dystopia: Wells, Huxley, and Orwell.” The Cambridge
Companion to Utopian Literature.
Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Just as the United States’ Constitution is referred to as a “living document”, I believe the English Dictionary can be placed in the same regard, since awareness of the meaning of a word can adapt and develop due to a plethora of factors, such as expansion of knowledge, historical events, technological advancement, etc. This is especially true when pertaining to the word “Utopia”. Originally, Thomas More constructed this neologism to represent a place that is no place, a desired end that is unattainable, a dream that cannot exist; however, this paradoxical, vague definition sparked contention and controversy over what constituted a utopia. Was it all up to the interpretation of the reader? Or are there certain elements required? Over time, literary philosophers, as they do, continued to throw in their perspective on the definition, developing more and more criteria and signs that indicated a utopia. These philosophers were aiming to construct boundaries for this term, but in my opinion, the opposite actually occurred. They facilitated the use of the word in a generic, household setting, as the criteria and signs applied to a multitude of works and societies. Today, as shown below, defines the word Utopia simply as “an ideal place or state”. Then, could simple daydreams and wandering imaginations be referred to as utopian thought?

In my opinion, Utopia is a term that cannot be strictly defined, rather it applies to any work of literature or thought provoking introspection in the reader or thinker. By that, I mean it initiates reflection of current societal practices and organizations as well as what could be improved or scrapped altogether in the future. Essentially, it is a process with an end goal of constructing a better world. However, it is important to note that this “better world” is highly subjective, depending on each individual’s mindset in regard to the world around them. For example, as portrayed by the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, there are a plethora of works classified as utopias, regardless to the subject matter or particular aspect of society each are addressing. There may be “primitivist and nostalgic utopias, sentimental individualist utopias, voyage utopias, satires, anti-utopias”, and more, depending on the society that the author is a part of (Claeys 51). Due to this, Utopia is an extremely malleable, adaptable term, not limited by one definition or set of expectations, but able to be molded into the time and audience for which it is written. Then,Utopian literature will always present itself as relevant, as it is at it’s core a medium through which beliefs, hopes, dreams, and guidelines can be expressed and developed upon, independent of the factors influencing their creation.

In response to this versatility of the concept of Utopia, Utopian literature and thought is commonly mixed with other genres of literature, including sci-fi, romance, etc, as the author so desires. To me, this acts as a tactic to tailor their critiques and comments to particular audiences, ensuring that the point they are trying to instill resonates with their readers. Recently, Utopian literature has taken a turn towards the Young Adult genre, modifying itself to apply to this age group. Therefore, Utopia is still its own separate genre, but it does blend with other genres in order to solidify its commentary.

Works Cited

Claeys, Gregory. “The origins of dystopia: Wells, Huxley, and Orwell.” The Cambridge
          Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

“Utopia”. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 21 Jan. 2017.