New literature course at the Orcas Island Library

  • Mon Jan 15th, 2018 1:30am
  • Life

Orcas Island Library is happy to announce a new literature course, starting on Feb. 1. Dictatorship Imagined: Novels of Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism will address the fact that daily news and events can be confusing and disorienting, and it can be difficult to know what to think. Narrative fictions can help us view the lives of characters in imagined (but often rooted in history) authoritarian and totalitarian societies, both from a distance and from the inside.

The 13-week course will be taught by Professor of German Emeritus Jens Kruse and will will explore multiple works of fiction, in order to understand our current political situation more clearly and confront it more effectively.

There are just a few spots left – you can sign up at the library, or call (360)376-4985. Cost for class materials is $40, payable at the first class meeting.

After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, it seemed for a while that democratic forms of government were ascendant and that soon authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government would be a topic for history books only. But in recent years authoritarian rule has reasserted itself in Russia, some member states of the European Union have become increasingly authoritarian (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic), in other countries authoritarian political movements have gained strength, and even the United States – long considered the leader of democratic nations – has recently elected a president with clear authoritarian inclinations, and democratic institutions and norms are under daily assault.

For those who live in this moment, the daily news and events can be confusing and disorienting and it can be difficult to know what to think, how to behave and react. In this situation, narrative fictions can help us view the lives of characters in imagined (but often rooted in history) authoritarian and totalitarian societies, both from a distance and from the inside.

The class will study and discuss 11 novels in 13 weekly meetings of two hours, on Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (see weekly schedule). In most class session Kruse will give a brief introduction to the novel, its author and its historical context. But most of the class time will be devoted to conversation and discussion. Class participation is very important and therefore the only clear expectation in this course is the careful and timely reading of the novels.

With each novel, participants will try to build our understanding of these imagined authoritarian and totalitarian states and societies from the narrative up, rather than from theoretical concepts down. Kruse will, however, occasionally add theoretical and conceptual texts to the discussion, in order to firm up and refine our observations and analyses.

By the end of the seminar, participants should have a clearer understanding what the elements, characteristics, features and methods of authoritarian and totalitarian rule are. They will also have seen how people who live under those regimes adapt, resist, rebel, live, or die. These observations and understandings will hopefully be useful to the readers and citizens in a democracy that is worth defending and in need of defense.