ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Fall 2023, Section 003 - Totalitarianism and Literature
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


In authoritarian regimes, leaders tell you what you can and cannot do. In totalitarian regimes, they tell you what you can and cannot think. Some of the world’s greatest twentieth-century novels were keen diagnoses of totalitarianism as it appeared on both Right and Left, and five of these literary classics will be the primary subject of this course: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1941), C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength (1945), George Orwell’s 1984 (1949), and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1951). We will also study select critical nonfiction from the same period by Lewis (The Abolition of Man, 1944), philosopher Hannah Arendt (The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951), and Nobel Prize-winning poet and essayist Czeslaw Milosz (The Captive Mind, 1951). But this class will not simply dive into a bygone historical era; rather, we will assume that these works still have something to say to our own rapidly changing society. This course will conclude by considering state and institutional policies pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, free speech, political polarization, and other topics. Are we now witnessing the reemergence of totalitarianism in our own time?

This course satisfies the following CURRENT English major/minor requirement: NOT APPLICABLE

This course satisfies the following NEW English major/minor requirements: Time: Contemporary/Modern

Course Requirements:

This course requires regular attendance and active participation in lectures and discussions. Students will complete a series of short papers and a final project. There will also be regular reading quizzes. This class has a no-electronics policy and promotes viewpoint diversity.

Intended Audience:

This course will be accessible to undergraduate students at all levels with no prior preparation required. All are welcome in this heterodox educational space, including conservatives, classical liberals, religious believers, and that vast silent majority that wonders how and why everything suddenly became so political….

(Hint: one of the classic hallmarks of totalitarianism is the politicization of everything. We will discuss this in class.)


ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
002 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
003 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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CourseProfile (Atlas)