When Fiction Becomes Reality: Teaching Dystopias during a Pandemic

XCOR 3010: Dystopias, Real & Imagined

In Dystopias, Real & Imagined we will explore the intersection between science fiction and reality by considering how the imaginary dystopias of literature and film are more realistic and more probable than we might want to realize. Over the course of the semester, we will attempt to identify the defining characteristics of a dystopia, to consider how those defining characteristics are able to develop in a “free society”, and to use those defining characteristics as acid tests against the real world. Ultimately, we will ask how the fictional trope of the dystopia can empower us to prevent the imaginary from becoming real. 

Download the full syllabus.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify the defining characteristics of dystopia & analyze real & imagery contexts against that definition.
    • Critically analyze fictional & cinematic dystopias against a definition of dystopia.
    • Critically analyze contemporary events against a definition of dystopia.
  2. Communicate effectively through writing & speaking.
    • Articulate thoughts & ideas clearly & effectively in written & oral forms to persons in & out of an organization.
    • Articulate using oral & written communication multiple, competing perspectives on one or more “big ideas” pertaining to the mission.
  3. Use quantitative, empirical, and critical reasoning skills to solve problems.
    • Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, & overcome problems.
    • Analyze & comprehensively describe the underlying assumptions of each view.
    • Evaluate these assumptions & using oral & written communication clearly state their conclusions.
  4. Apply socially responsible & ethical principles to promote equity & sustainability in ways that align with our mission as a historically Black and Catholic Institution.
    • Build collaborative relationships with colleagues & customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, & viewpoints.
    • Challenge theories of social justice against various dystopian examples.
  5. Demonstrate personal accountability & effective work habits.
    • Leverage existing digital technologies ethically & efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, & accomplish goals.
    • Develop proficiency as a self-regulated learner.


  • Podcast (30%): In a group, you will script, record, and produce an episode for our class podcast. This work will be publicly available through the course web site and a number of podcast providers. Please see the Podcast Assignment Sheet for details.
  • Course Blog (25%): You will contribute to our course blog by posting a number of short writing assignments and reflections that will be publicly available. Of the twelve assigned blog posts, you must complete at least 6. Please see the Course Blog Assignment Sheet for the complete details.
  • Annotated Readings (20%): Over the course of the semester, we will read a number of articles and chapters to help us develop our understanding of dystopias more thoroughly. Each of these will be available online, and as you read them, you will collaboratively annotate them using Hypothesis. Please see the Annotated Readings Assignment Sheet for more details.
  • Class Engagement (15%): Each week, you will receive a grade for your level of engagement for the class meetings that week and your participation in other tasks, such as Entry Tickets and Course Reflections. Please see the Course Engagement Assignment Sheet for more details.
  • Final Exam (10%): We will have an in-person essay-style exam during the time designated by the Registrar. You will need something to write with and a blue book (available from the book store).

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