Hello and welcome to the first season of Dispatches from Room 101, a podcast that explores the realities of dystopian literature and film. My name is Jason Todd, and I am an Associate Professor of English and the Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana. This podcast is produced by the students in my Engaging the Mission course called Dystopias, Real and Imagined.
The idea behind this class is that if we look closely enough, we can recognize some of the elements that make the worlds in books and movies dystopian in our own world. These analogues, as we called them, are specific instances of dystopian fiction climbing off the page and into our world. Each episode of this podcast features a group of students discussing a fictional dystopia and then revealing the analogues they see in the real world.
This first season is the result of some great work by my students during the Spring 2020 semester. Not only was this the first time this class was ever taught, but it was also the first time I’ve ever assigned a podcast as a project. Despite all that newness, the students embraced the challenge and put together some great episodes. If that weren’t enough, as everyone listening knows, this semester was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Confronted with the challenges of having to move off campus — and for some, across the country, of having to adapt to remote learning, of losing loved one to the virus or contracting it themselves, my students didn’t just muddle through — they produced really great work, even though the groups they had formed early in the semester often had thousands of miles in between them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, we spent a good deal of time during the second half of this semester discussing whether the reactions by the different governments around the world to the COVID-19 crisis could be considered dystopian or could possibly become dystopian if taken allowed to continue beyond the initial crisis. Although it doesn’t appear in every episode, it has continued to loom heavily over the class and all the work we’ve done in recent weeks.
I hope you enjoy learning from my co-hosts about these imaginary and real dystopias. Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, please give us a five-star review in your preferred podcast app.
Saddler, Joseph. “The Message (feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee).” The Message, written by Melvin Glover & Edward G. Fletcher, Sugar Hill Records, 1982, 7. YouTube Music, music.youtube.com/watch?v=PobrSpMwKk4.
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