Dystopias that Reflect Us


    “Dystopia embodies our worst fears for who we could become but also our most fascinating what-ifs to bring to life.” ~Prof. Valerie


    Coming Soon

    InstructorProf. Valerie Frankel
    Content LevelsGrades 9-10 • Lower High School
    Grades 11-12 • Upper High School
    Course Length16 Weeks
    Live Webinars Held OnWednesdays, 10:00 - 10:50 AM Pacific - 1/24/24 - 5/18/24

    Dystopias have always revealed so much about the culture creating them—what do we fear? How do we envision the future? And, a century after some of these were written, how much have they come true? Science fiction, especially dystopia, can be described as today’s philosophy, working through our worries and fears of the future through the chilling, the horrific, the possibly possible. These novels expand our minds and let us question reality.

    Together, we’ll analyze the dark stories of each era celebrated among high school classics, from their invention through the turbulent 60s and perkier 90s and then move on to the recent explosion of teen dystopias. Many have optional tie-in films, and modern adaptations of Dune, Foundation, Blade Runner, etc., reveal different fears and characters from their originals. Which issues are today’s books satirizing, with humor or rage or despair, and how do they address these conflicts? How do they protest and change the world for a better tomorrow? Each class, we’ll do deep analysis of theme, setting, and historical context, learning what makes these stories so appealing then and now. There will be lots of discussion and chances for creativity and independent creation as we explore why these stories resonate with today’s teens. This class will teach all the traditional skills of high school English with cutting-edge popular books suggested by students.

    What to expect in the Required section in the classroom each week:

    • Assignments and discussions to learn history and culture and analyze deep themes, symbolism, etc. in the assigned novel
    • Weekly reading of half a large classic or one shorter classic.

    What to expect in the Highly Suggested & Optional sections in the classroom each week:

    • Curated resources, including websites & videos, are provided to excite learners and to add depth to the subject matter.
    • Additional lessons and resources to help students get more out of the lessons and research culture, history, and literary devices in the work.

    What to expect during the weekly webinar:

    • Weekly webinars are 50 minutes long. Webinars are recorded and are available for students with schedule conflicts.
    • In-class discussion and learning about dystopian novels as well as lessons on analysis and literary devices and how to discover them in all forms of literature.
    • Active Participation (via the microphone and chat) is encouraged in online class discussions and also during lectures.

    Before taking this course, students should be able to: 

    • Read at a solid 8th-grade level or above.
    • Type fluently.
    • Write a paragraph independently.

    Students should be willing to:

    • Have an interest in dystopia.
    • Actively participate (via the microphone) in the class discussion.
    • Encourage class discussion by adding their questions/ideas in the chat window during the webinar.
    • Respond with positive and encouraging comments on their classmates’ posts in the classroom forums.

    Required books & materials:

    • (Library books, ebooks, audio books, etc. are all welcome—these tend to be very widely available.)
    • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
    • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
    • Legend by Marie Lu
    • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    • Internment by Samira Ahmed
    • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers