we are inevitably reminded of the phrase . . . that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. That slogan captures precisely what I mean by ‘capitalist realism’: the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible to even imagine a coherent alternative to it. Once, dystopian films and novels were exercises in such acts of imagination - the disasters they depicted acting as a narrative pretext for the emergence of different ways of living …

—Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

Forget everything you’ve been taught

Start by dreaming

This is the course website for Dr. Thomas' Contemporary Culture course (HUM 415). This version of the course is organized under the rubric of imagining the political. If you have no idea what that means, you're not alone. A quick look around confirms that thinking imaginatively or even differently about the political—or even considering doing so—is something seemingly banished from our everyday lives. As someone once said: it's easier for us to imagine the end of the world than it is for us to imagine the end of capitalism. So, what kind of system do we have where so much energy is expended on preventing us from even thinking about, let alone imagining, any alternatives to what currently exists? This course poses these and other questions at the intersection of thought, aesthetics, and politics. Rather than definitively answer these questions, the course is intended as a guided study of this problematic in diverse areas—e.g. time, education, and work—and through the example and study of diverse forms of expression, such as music (including file sharing, 8-tracks, and psychedelic children's music), science fiction and horror film, a novel about Christopher Robin and the Situationist International (Billy Moon), and contemporary theory and philosophy. As if to demonstrate the efficacy (and, frankly, the lulling seductiveness) of our main thesis, we will spend a great deal of time analyzing dystopian "end of the world," science fiction, and horror film in relation to the historical present. What do these films teach us about contemporary culture? What are these films imagining?