Utopias and Dystopias

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Utopias and Dystopias
Writing Course
Course CodeTOPI
Year Opened2009
Sites OfferedLAN
Previously OfferedCAR, SAR
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Course Description

From the CTY course catalog:

From Plato’s Republic to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, utopian and dystopian literature often examines the line between perfection and oppression. In this course students explore how authors use conventions such as narrative structure and satire to construct utopian and dystopian works. They identify, discuss, and write about the underlying rules, laws, and ideologies relating to economics, politics, gender roles, religions, and technologies within the societies they examine.

Through extensive critical and creative writing, students in this course examine how utopian and dystopian societies engage some of the most pressing sociopolitical concerns of our times. For example, after reading Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta or Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, students may write an essay about dystopian protagonists and how they are able to effect change in unjust, oppressive societies. Likewise, students might compare gender roles in both Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland and Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. They also have the opportunity to construct and share their own utopian or dystopian visions.

Class sessions are designed to encourage close reading, discussion, and both critical and creative writing. Students produce four to six major writing projects, developing their skills through an intense process of drafting, critiquing in workshops, and revising.

Class History

In 09.2, Utopias and Dystopias was separated into two sections, with the B section taught by Adam Rzepka and the A section by Michael Paulson. The TA for TOPI-A was Shannyn Kobran, the most epic TA ever. The B class explored utopic and dystopic literature throughout history, beginning with biblical references to heaven and hell, and concluding with modern texts such as Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley's Brave New World. The A class skipped a lot of the early stuff and went straight to science fiction. Both classes read, wrote and watched movies a LOT. TOPI A was very unsatisfied with their teacher, and the dissatisfaction grew leading to an attempted coup in the last days of session (NOBODY gets away with being mean to Otter!). Both TOPI classes were extremely Alcove-heavy, with the B class comprised totally of Alcovians. The TOPI.A girls and the TOPI.B and Number Theory girls were also co-halls, resulting in what is most likely the highest concentration of Alcovians ever to live in a single hall (except maybe the TOPI.B boys' hall).

At LAN 10.1, TOPI-B was insanity The class was simply too ridiculous to be described again

LAN 15.1's only TOPI class was also taught by Brent Krammes and Ruth Book and spent the whole session listening to Ruth's stories about the 14.2 TOPI-B class. That's really all there is to say about that.

LAN 15.2 TOPI B was taught by the meg legendary instructor Shawn Rubenfeld (who has a very soothing voice) and the meg legendary TA Brendan Flanagan (squirrel TA, but we loved him nonetheless). The class consisted of 9 girls and 6 boys who became the closest of people during the three weeks. Members of 15.2 TOPI B included: Zofie Basta, Muskaan (Smiles) Garg, Emily Rabinovich, Megan Yang, Serena Zhao, Jaimie Yue, Tobias Feldman, Sam Mills, Tess Fiumefreddo, Kiara Carloni, Henry Anderson (Hot Henry), Aaron Dickstein (Dick rock/stone), Jake Bolling, Stephen Petraitis (rave obsessed), and Jacob Feibusch. The class dubbed Brendan and Shawn as the famed Brawn one true pairing, or OVERSIZED TOILET PAPER (#Brawn2k15).

This class was LIT. During handoff many girls from the class would be yelling for a certain lanyard swinger to stop and put his lanyard around his neck. Brendan would summon everyone by shouting "TOPI B COUNTING OFF" at the top of his lungs across the gigantic quad, especially for the two boys who would run from Weis every morning. When that failed to work, Tess would scream "TOPI B" so loudly that almost everybody would hear her and turn. If you were at LAN 15.2, then you probably heard her screeching. The class would signal that they were leaving by shouting in turn "TOPI B WALKING!" TOPI B had the best classroom in Stager Hall with 5 projectors and super comfy chairs that would make 90% of the students fall asleep daily. #TOPIBWINNING


"See you back at the ranch!"
"Hey there folks, it's Shawn!"
"Aaron, lanyard!""Lanyard, neck!""AARON, NECK!!!" (used interchangeably)
"Don't get eaten by cougars!"
"Impromptu sun protection!"

LAN 16.1 TOPI was taught by Josh Keller and TA'd by Kevin Strasbaugh. The class consisted of nine girls and five boys. Everyone was pretty close with each other. The class had various nicknames such as Potato, Ketchup, Edgehogs, Dora, Topimon, etc. Pokemon Go was definitely a craze that possessed approximately half of the class. The class read books such as "V For Vendetta", (or V for VVVVVVVVV, or Fish for Findetta), "Parable of the Sower", "Herland", and "21st Century Sci-Fi Novel." The class also attempted to create dystopian societies,, which ultimately resulted in utter chaos (the first being a cannibalistic society that believed any anomaly is entitled to suffering, such as being publicly sausaged. The second in which the ozone layer disappeared, anti-radiation pulls became currency, humans lived in underground subway systems, aliens ruled the planet, and land sharks terrorized the desert like waste land) (Dammit Sebin!) They also learned about the process of estrangement by describing eating a gummy bear (or colorful gelatinous creature) going into a human's mouth (wet, gaping orifice). The class also held occasional contests to apply what they had learned. Things such as "In a world where the government's slogan is 'Kill all birds'.", Pepe never dies, cheese sandwiches, and senpai became memes as a result. The classroom was in Stager 316, which turned into a junkyard every week. Everyone took pictures of each other and someone turned into a dementor. They're better than Josh's undergrads. A potato flew around my room before you came in... YOURE WELCOME NEIKI I WROTE THIS!

LAN 16.2 TOPI probably happened we don't really know. They didn't write this. It had the 16.2 jester and the 17.1 jester so it was probably crazy but who knows

LAN 17.2 TOPI was taught by the legendary Josh Keller and Liz Lvov, and was basically a combination of position holders, GLOW, the rave circle, multitalented artists, and Indra (Indra). It consisted of 11 girls, 2 boys, and 2 NB, with at least ten or twelve being queer in some capacity. The class read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in which they promptly condemned Terry Nicholson, a character, to death. V for Vendetta, another favorite, went through lots of controversy as the class had a character discussion that went well over an hour and a half and into break. (Oh, and we’re also really gay.) Other than class discussions and slightly confusing lectures, each student had their many different talents and expertises - for example, Indra often peppered the classroom with facts about bugs, mainly ants. (Did you know that ants actually have four parts of their bodies? Apparently one of them is only used to connect the thorax and the abdomen) They also went through the subject of estrangement by describing eating a fish taco (white roaches, the moist hell-pit, and Chipotle! Taco Bell). A few other inside jokes include:

Stager, the greenhouse
“No, you can’t take your books back with you.”
Anime Karl Marx as drawn by Isabella
Cody the problematic character
“Do we haave to go back to the classroom?”
Josh’s pretentious Starbucks cold brew coffee from Turkey Hill
Sketchy/illegal elevator rides (on which Lucas has gone twice)
The chalkboard behind the desks, which is a mess
The sacred origami ball(ing)
Finding a cigar cutter, then proceeding to chop up and reassemble a large eraser
“Why does our classroom smell like this”
Indra and Lucas going on toilet trips together and not knowing what the hell they were doing
“How does someone who uses the word ‘nebulous’ get laid more than ten times?”
An overly complex thirty-minute long story about a pile of algae that invaded a nature camp. This story contained approximately a hundred different names.
JOSH WHAT IS YOUR PSEUDONYM (update: we know it now and it's exceedingly hilarious/underwhelming)
“Non TOPI depart from me for I know thee not” or; ”Begone, randos”
Think twice before you understand, ‘don’t drag your limbs across the Kivo counter’.

The height of this class probably came during the court trial, where they came up with a society called Owl City (named after the band who sung Fireflies, a recurring meme in the media at the moment/forever). Fireflies were considered sacred, the Vanilla Twilight zone was off-limits, and the Fire Mother ruled over the land. Above all, glowsticks were a symbol of social status and currency. All citizens were required to wear a glowing article of clothing around their body, and needed to be LIT at all times (thus resulting in the most frequent use of the word ‘LIT’ ever in the history of mankind). Both Liz and Josh were pardoned because their characters, Electra Luminescent and Raven Ravioli McRavin’, were either a) queer in some capacity, or b) participated in raving during the trial. Nobody died. What a tragic ending. They were quite LITerally the most LIT of the LITerary classes at CTY.

LAN 18.2 TOPI was taught again by the legendary Josh Keller and Liz Lvov! Lots of dance moves copied from the song "Seasons" by Future Islands. Every morning we listened to music out of Josh's Pokemon ball speaker and learned how to devil stick during break, if we were not currently battling to get to ace in 4 square. Josh often referred to us as the most aggressive class that played 4 square and even once both Josh and Liz got into the game that Liz turned on a timer during break. We created a world based on jazzercise and gum, and created a love story with mountain dew, pens, and pencils. "you know i had to mountain dew it to em"- Jack. We had round robin stories based on "the Bird who cried cane", a pickle queen, and interesting alien abduction craziness. Liz also taught us about the manic pixie dream girl and always wore the coolest white sandals. On the topic of estrangement we talked about how to eat a chicken wing and eat a banana ( repeat x5 until naked). The classroom was on 3rd floor stager and man was that a climb! All things considered, we felt it trickle down.

LAN 19.1 TOPI was taught by the OG Jawsch and TA'd by Jweghn. We were momentarily blessed with our beautiful Canadian Sam, who may or may or may not have run over Dunn with a bike and smashed his head in a few times. We were a cult, we screamed in the quad at the beginning of each class, only listened to emo throat murder music, were led by two crying bananas (Remus and Romulus), and had an edgelord chant. At every break, there would be much time devoted to arguing over Four Square (@ Dunn, Lisa, and Marie) and resolving conflicts with two square, which ended in more argument. We all lived in a society ruled by hills that were literally alive with the sound of music who hated us and caused constant earthquakes, which we cleverly evaded through the use of big balloons. We tried to kill Jawsch and Jweghn using slow pendulums, which was DIS-GUST-TANG @Rowan, but they escaped execution. Everything was uncanny, especially the chewed lomein that was later excreted. We loved our iconic slide whistle man @Beau, and he played it every single second of class, fortunately, the whistle "disappeared". Unfortunately, Jawsch handed out new whistles and maracas. We stan a LIT FAM.

WE felt it trickle down. We FELT it trickle down. We felt IT trickle down. We felt it TRICKLE down. We felt it trickle DOWN.

R.I.P. To our 3? Nevermores

Thank you Jawsch for letting us all ride the illegal elevator :) "Subway: eat flesh" "