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Publisher's Summary

Can literature change our real world society? At its foundation, utopian and dystopian fiction asks a few seemingly simple questions aimed at doing just that. Who are we as a society? Who do we want to be? Who are we afraid we might become? When these questions are framed in the speculative versions of Heaven and Hell on earth, you won't find easy answers, but you will find tremendously insightful and often entertaining perspectives.

Utopian and dystopian writing sits at the crossroads of literature and other important academic disciplines such as philosophy, history, psychology, politics, and sociology. It serves as a useful tool to discuss our present condition and future prospects - to imagine a better tomorrow and warn of dangerous possibilities. To examine the future of mankind through detailed and fascinating stories that highlight and exploit our anxieties in adventurous, thought-provoking, and engaging ways. From Thomas More's foundational text Utopia published in 1516 to the 21st-century phenomenon of The Hunger Games, dive into stories that seek to find the best - and the worst - in humanity, with the hope of better understanding ourselves and the world. Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature delivers 24 illuminating lectures, led by Pamela Bedore, Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, which plunge you into the history and development of utopian ideas and their dystopian counterparts. You'll encounter some of the most powerful and influential texts in this genre as you travel centuries into the past and thousands of years into the future, through worlds that are beautiful, laughable, terrifying, and always thought-provoking.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature

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  • NH
  • 04-06-17

A very enjoyable and educational audiobook

I won a free Audible credit from the Audiobook Addicts facebook group. I chose The Great Courses title Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses before and the topic really appealed to me. Professor Bedore does a fantastic job of presenting the material while keeping it very interesting for the listener. The course has twenty-four lessons totaling over twelve hours.

The course begins with a discussion of what Utopian and Dystopian mean. The next lesson starts the discussion of the first Utopian work by Thomas More. There are several lessons covering the other Utopian writers such as Swift and H. G. Wells. The course then moves on to the Dystopias. It covers much more than Orwell's 1984. The breadth of the course is really amazing. It covers The Hunger Games and the Apocalyptic works of this century. The final lesson is on the future of the two genres.

The accompanied course guide, in Adobe pdf format, is amazing. It is over two hundred and forty pages of information. Each lesson has an outline of what is covered and a Suggested Reading section as well as Questions to consider. The Bibliography at the end is incredible. It is going to populate my to-read list for years to come.

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature was a very enjoyable and educational audiobook. I would recommend it for anyone who reads Utopian or Dystopian genres.

#non-fiction #thegreatcourses #educational #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

72 people found this helpful

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Good but disappointing.

Overall I loved this course, but it was far from perfect. Too meandering and omits too many classic dystopian texts. But Professor Bedore knows her subject and is an excellent communicator with a pleasing voice. Worthwhile for any fans of science fiction and apocalyptic fiction looking to explore the genres deeper. Of the books discussed here that I have not previously read, I expect to read about half of them.

16 people found this helpful

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Bridging fears and ideals

This was my first time listening to a Great Courses lecture series, and I'm so glad I did!

Bedore does an outstanding job bridging the connections between Utopia and Dystopia in Science Fiction and showing how this bridge shrinks over time as our societal views of the two begin to merge together.
This course is really nice if you've already been exposed to some of the pieces mentioned (the more popular ones being Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, 1985, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner, The Time Machine, Minority Report, Candide, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, I Am Legend, The Giver, Snowpiercer, The Hunger Games series, The Walking Dead, and Black Mirror), but it's not required.
There were actually some lectures I was tempted to skip since I had never read (or even heard) of the pieces/authors she would be discussing, but Bedore gives such easy to understand summaries of these novels (without spoiling the endings!) that it made these lectures not only completely understandable to an outsider, but very entertaining.

A lot of reviews on here mentioned not enjoying this series because of a "political bias" present in the lectures. In my opinion, this is an unfair judgement. Bedore says upfront that part of these lectures would be discussing how Utopias and Dystopias evolved throughout history. The specific lectures most reviewers are referring to, lectures 8 & 15-19, simply work to discuss how this branch of Science Fiction made such a large jump from being mostly written by and for white males to evolving to meet a larger demographic's ideas of Utopia/Dystopia.
If it really bothers you that (less than) 20% of this amazing lecture series talks exclusively about female & minority authors and their works, then I suggest you might consider reading some of the works Bedore lists in these sections. They might help open you mind to new horizons.

Honestly, the only downside to this series was that it made my "Books I Need to Read" list twice as long! I only wish I could've attended these lectures in real life.


P.S.
There were so many great pieces discussed in this series, but I really wish there had been mentions of
Battle Royale (Japanese dystopian battle film eerily similar to yet pre-dating The Hunger Games),
The Last of Us (Dystopian survivalist Video Game),
Akira (Cyberpunk action anime film),
and Metropolis (both the silent German utopia/dystopia film and the anime cyberpunk-revolution film).

15 people found this helpful

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A marvelous introduction to a new genre for me

Would you listen to Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature again? Why?

I would certainly listen to Prof Bedore's intelligently scripted, passionately delivered lectures again. It has hooked me and I am now watching the TV series The Handmaids Tale, something I may not have chosen before. I will also dust off my Clockwork Orange DVD and Brave New World now features on my audible wish list.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The obvious delight that the lecturer takes in delivering her subject. I need this kind of passionate delivery, I am not a great reader or an intellectual - seeming to fall more for conceptual, perhaps visual ideas, I was driving in my car in traffic ridden Johannesburg when the Prof delivered her take on Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange and I was instantly drawn into the spectacle of the Kubrick Masterpiece and resolve now to visit A Brave New World

Which scene was your favorite?

Many scenes captivated me. I had seen 1984 years ago and the film left me with a bleak, morose impression. I had not thought much about Utopian or Distopian narratives in intervening years up to now, but Prof Bedore's presentations has changed that. I am also intrigued by works of apocalyptic visions like Cormic McCarthy's the Road. Which I will now seek out, and the movie too.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The best and the worst of all possible worlds

Any additional comments?

I am not sure if there is more of Professor Bedore's work available on audio on this topic, if not, there should be

19 people found this helpful

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Great promise but limited scope -- undue bias alert

I approached this class with anticipation. There's much to be learned from the varied utopian and dystopian literature across history. The lecturer rightly notes the inherently philosophical nature of this literature. Unfortunately, she is trapped in her own biases. If you're longing to hear s body of literature support the instructor's enthusiasm for Marxist theory and third-wave feminism, then this is the class for you. If you're looking for a broader treatment, then you'll be disappointed. Worse, the lecturers gushing over her favorite Marxist and Feminist theorists and/or writers becomes tiresome. This even leads to a two chapter discussion of one of her favorite authors who isn't even writing in this genre. The justification given for this is the author in question has "the spirit" of Utopianism. Argh!

48 people found this helpful

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Fascinating series

I listened to this alongside another Great Courses lecture series, How Great Science Fiction Works, and they are both excellent and informative, well worth the credit; they sometimes cover the same writers but it's interesting to hear both viewpoints. I noticed that some reviewers have marked Professor Bedore down for including feminist and gender-related utopian and dystopian fiction. But this is just what made this series especially interesting for me. Her discussion of Octavia Butler really stands out as a highlight, although every lecture is packed with information and delivered with enthusiasm. Overall it's clear that people who have traditionally been regarded as second class citizens for long periods of history have a completely different take on surviving a society that doesn't value them, and in turn they give us a whole new take on the meaning of utoptia or dystopia. And this is ultimately what makes science fiction stand out from other genres - new ideas, new ways of looking at ourselves. After listening to this series, I have added a lot of books to my "to read" list, and I will definitely be listening to this one again.

18 people found this helpful

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Post Modern propaganda

This series was decent until it deteriorated further and further into unabashed post modern propaganda. It was interesting how the author ignored the direct correlation between her obvious indoctrination and the dystopian societies she described.

5 people found this helpful

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Engaging lecturer, but sometimes over the top

Professor Bedore clearly loves her area of study and her enthusiasm is obvious. This is very much an undergraduate course, with some depth and thought-provoking sections, but a certain amount of forced approachability. Bedore often feels too scripted, too much like she is trying to be excessively likable and funny. In a few instances, her summaries of the plots of certain books were partially incorrect (I Am Legend, The Day of the Triffids), and most glaringly in her final lecture she makes general statements about the TV series Black Mirror, which is made up of stand alone episodes, but bases her analysis on the assumption that all episodes or one reality. I did not feel like my time was wasted, but was frustrated that she was not more rigorous in her preparation and analysis.

15 people found this helpful

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Come for the analysis; stay for the reading list!

I've always loved dystopian novels since I first snuck my father's copy of 1984 to read under the covers in middle school. (Mom had been known to participate in religious book burnings, so I couldn't read it openly. As a result, Fahrenheit 451 remains on my shelf to this day, despite my mostly having pared down and switched over to audible and e-books. Somehow, I could never bring myself to own ONLY an e-copy of that one... but I digress.)

Professor Bedore brings a great enthusiasm, and a wonderful analytic mind to this topic, which is clearly near and dear to her heart. She starts with the original "Utopia", and works her way forward in time, showing the development of both utopian and dystopian genres up into the 2010s.

Along the way she looks at all the obvious books (e.g., 1989 and Brave New World) but also finds time to examine a number of books I'd never heard of (i.e, "We" and "The Chrysalids" are now on my list.) In addition to presenting some interesting thoughts (e.g., though it seems paradoxical, both utopia and dystopia are fundamentally about hope, which may explain in part the dramatic popularity of dystopian novels in YA literature since the new millennium), her lectures also serve as an excellent reading (and movie!) list.

Because this is something of a survey course, those wishing truly deep analysis of any particular text might be disappointed. But if you are looking for thoughts on how utopias and dystopias in general (and the distinct but related post/apocalyptic, speculative, and science fictions) examine and comment on history and current events, you'll likely be pleased with this course.

Professor Bedore as the narrator is also excellent, making me wish my long-ago professors had as much passion for their topic, and were able to read notes and present as well as she does! She's an excellent narrator as well as writer of her lectures.

Finally, as is the case with many of the Great Courses, the length of the course makes it a good value for your credit. Well worth both time and money investment, in my opinion.

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful introduction to The Great Courses

This was my first book from The Great Courses and I must say it was phenomenal. Utopian/dystopian novels are my favorite genre so it was really cool to hear a history or timeline of this type of story. I was so excited when I realized the audiobook came with a PDF complete with a list of "suggested readings" after each chapter! This is definitely something to read if you enjoy dystopias and are looking for more, less well known, stories (my wish list just got 20x longer)

9 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 06-27-17

I have been challenged to rethink.

I've had trouble with this book. It has forced me to look again at some of my views & values regarding Gender types, Young adult literature and many of my political views. I have not always liked what I've heard, but isnt that the whole point?

18 people found this helpful

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  • M. Rogers
  • 07-10-18

An interesting cruise through the genre's key work

30 minute lectures on either an author or a single book. Interesting insights are provided on the genre, the human condition that leads to the creation of these stories, and the cultural norms that are reflected and questioned by the genre.

A good use of 12 hoirs of my life. Enjoyable and educational.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Shane
  • 12-13-17

My first of the great courses

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with these series of books but found this to be extremely thought provoking and interesting to listen to. Only snag is now I’ve got so many books to look up I’m not sure when I’ll get to them all hahaha

7 people found this helpful

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  • John R Hughes
  • 08-29-19

Everywhere and Nowhere

The author, Pamela Bedore, reads her work with verve, enthusiasm and contagious insight. As we reach for our possible futures as a species, the game is on to determine whether we are headed for a dystopian or utopian future. This survey of the history and development of utopian fiction is engaging from start to finish. There are templates for many possible alternate societies, some of which seem attractive and many of which we will need to swerve hard to avoid as they seem so prescient.

The great courses have the great benefit of manageable well structured chapters, and the links and development of the ideas works really well. Bravo. Finally, there are many useful summaries of stories I may never read - these are very well done - avoiding plot spoilers while taking the key elements to illustrate the themes at hand.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela
  • 03-03-21

Subjective Interpenetration

Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature this is a very subjective selection of work and should be understood as that. I won't go through all the points that I did not like about it. The lectures are evening class rather than university level.
I was expecting a discussion of the stories but it was more a literary analysis course in which the subject matter was of minor import.

I listened to this because I am interested in literature. The fact the tutor had many personal preferences and likes is not relevant for this course. We are there to learn about a genre of literature, not the times she saw in person authors she is a fan of. Again if the stories have to be judged by this it voids them being Great works.

In many lectures about a book, the tutor begins with, "I'm not going to give the ending..."
I don't understand this. This is not a knit and natter group or book club. It makes me think it must be a very poor story if it can only bear one reading.
This is meant to be about Great works. This attitude seems ridiculous to me. Would someone do this if discussing Shakespeare or Austen?

I could list so much more but then it'd end up an end of term thesis but I think you can see the type of issues I found. I hope other people enjoy it more than I did.

2 people found this helpful

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  • A. Mcdermott
  • 01-23-19

Fascinating and insightful in equal measure!

I'm seeing novels I've known and loved for many years in a whole new light.

2 people found this helpful

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  • A. Smith
  • 01-24-21

Great!!

Really recommend. This has been my second listen within a year and I feel I need to listen again as there are just so many interesting and thought provoking points being made. If you enjoy this genre of literature I can’t recommend this highly enough. I need to go and read more of the material referenced and then I think I’ll have a third listen. Narration is excellent. Ms Bedore is an excellent raconteur, I imagine her classes are very popular on campus.

1 person found this helpful

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  • C. R. Moorhead
  • 02-22-21

interesting introduction

Plenty of food for thought and book suggestions for my future reading. Dystopian fiction sits uneasily with me as it often accepts the worst version of humans to be the norm and I worry that there is a lack of separation between fact and fiction in the not so subtle subtexts of dystopian writing. It's a heavily political genre and it would have been interesting to have a lecture commenting on that as a theme to address it as a subject by itself.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-20-17

A barrage of literary jargon.

If you’re interested in this lecturers opinions then I can recommend it. If you’re seeking factual details I advise anyone to look elsewhere.

6 people found this helpful

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  • James
  • 09-06-19

A wonderful, exciting series

I purchased this ages ago and for some reason, didn't get around to reading it until very recently. Foolish foolish me! Once I started, I couldn't stop.

Pamela Bedore is a fantastic narrator and her enthusiasm for the subject matter is simply contagious. Coupled with her clear expertise, her easy going and down to earth explanations and her delightful way of narrating - almost as if you're sitting across from her at a bar - its a joy to listen to these lectures.

Pamela has selected an amazing array of books covering centuries of work and in each work, finds a way to show examples of each genre and also where you can go if you're interested in the topic / theme / particular style of that movement.

Easily the best lecture series I've purchased and one which I will revisit again (particularly as Pamela has given me a huge list of books to read / listen to). A brilliant series and a wonderful author narrator. Cannot recommend this enough.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-03-20

Beyond pen and paper

This course describes and explores the areas between such concepts as politics, society and technology; among others. It is compactly articulated and offers great insight to a a literary incompetent like myself.

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  • mark Zaniol
  • 07-06-20

excellent experience & fascinating content

love the journey through Uptopian & dystopian lit. worth a listen. I really enjoyed the whole series of lectures.

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  • Mark Broadhead
  • 12-27-19

Ugh

Pretty good content but the lecturer seems to be talking in a voice for young teens.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ellen L
  • 04-01-19

One of my favourite Great Course

Always a pleasure to listen to a passionate, interested and engaging lecturer. Pamela Bedore is wonderful. Only problem is my list of recommended reading will occupy the rest of this year

1 person found this helpful