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ERIC Number: EJ872804
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jan
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 12
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Teaching Dystopian Literature to a Consumer Class
Wilkinson, Rachel
English Journal, v99 n3 p22-26 Jan 2010
Many students are struggling with more depression and anxiety than ever before. These are characteristic dangers of the "consumer class"--1.7 billion people worldwide who are "characterized by diets of highly processed food, desire for bigger houses, more and bigger cars, higher levels of debt, and lifestyles devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods." Mindless consumerism threatens physical, social, and psychological health; total abstinence, on the other hand, means starvation. The author teaches dystopian literature, which exaggerates modern context so that one can challenge it. Providing for its readers a glimpse into a horrifying but fully possible future, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and M. T. Anderson's "Feed" show how unrestrained industry often relies on manipulation and herd mentality, an unspeakably grim encroachment on the individual. When the important thing is selling and buying, the individual becomes nothing more than consumer or worker. This is where it gets tricky: Young people love advertising, consuming, entertainment, and technology. If people attack these trappings of modern life, they risk nurturing defensiveness. The challenge is to focus on the dangers, demands, and opportunities common to the "consumer class" without alarmism--difficult terrain to navigate. Four important traits of modern consumerism that the two novels address are powerful advertising and industry, mindless consumption based on instant gratification, reliance on technology, and the resulting atrophy of language. English teachers can explore these important concepts with their students. Using these texts, they can meaningfully discuss what it means to be responsible, aware, knowledgeable, and moral consumers.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A