Utopian Dreaming: History, Science Fiction, and Isla Vista

image representation of utopia
Monday through Thursday, 9:30 – 11:30AM
Course Number
Number of Units
Instructor Name
Brad Bouley and Patrick McHugh
Scholarship/s Available

The dream of a perfect society, in which all residents would live in harmony with certain ideals, has animated politicians and the public from mythical Atlantis to the 1,100 “intentional communities” currently thriving in the United States. But perfection has its dark side and utopian dreamers have included colonizing bishops in the Americas, the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, and the Russian strongman Joseph Stalin. This course will examine the utopian dream through history, literature, philosophy, and public memory. Starting with a historical and philosophical background of the concepts and unintended consequences of idealism, the course will then turn to focus more narrowly on our own planned community of Isla Vista. Students will engage with public history and memory to trace the ideals and the reality that have animated and continue to impact our surrounding community. Finally, in the last part of the survey, students will look at the future, focusing first on fictional accounts of utopia and dystopias, before writing their own speculative fiction as a final project. This course fulfills two GE requirements — Writing and Area E: Culture and Thought. 

This course offers 35 scholarships of $1,200 to enrolled students, to help offset the cost of unit fees. To apply for a course scholarship, students should follow the steps below. Award decisions will be made on a rolling basis. 

  1. Register for the course in GOLD.
  2. Once registered, prepare a 300-500 word essay explaining why you are interested in the course. You may also share any information about pressing financial need, though this is optional.
  3. Use your UCSB NetID to log in to the Summer Sessions Course Scholarship submission portal. Complete the simple digital submission form to upload your essay for consideration.