Spring 2019 HC 421H: The Hunger Games and Social Philosophy

Spring Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Camisha Russell

4.00 credits

  • CRN 32535: Monday & Wednesday, 12:00 - 13:50 @ CON 301

The popular Hunger Games trilogy consists of three novels marketed to young adults (but enjoyed more broadly) – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. The stories take place in a dystopian future North America (Panem) which, following a series of environmental disasters, has been divided into a Capitol and 12 (13) Districts. The relationship between the ruling Capitol and the Districts (which produce the majority of the goods the capitol citizens consume) is one of domination, oppression and exploitation. Most shocking for readers is the fact that each year the Capitol demands that each district offer two of its children as tributes – competitors who will battle to the death in a manufactured arena while the rest of the country watches the event on television.

In this course, we will explore (primarily through philosophical lenses) a variety of themes present in the trilogy, including those of domination, oppression, injustice, inequality, excess, complicity, corruption, and war. On the brighter side, we will also look at morality, resistance, and methods for deconstructing or challenging the social order. We will consider both the world of the Hunger Games itself and what the novels can tell us about contemporary society. We will propose and discuss ways in which philosophical texts and theories can be applied to social issues in our society and in theirs.

The course will be divided into three units. We will begin in Unit One by looking at the Districts: What is life like for the people living there? Why do they consent to their conditions? How is power over the Districts maintained? In Unit Two, we will consider the Capitol. We’ll talk about their excesses of consumption and body modification. We’ll ask about their relationship to the media and how they can consider watching children kill each other as a superior form of entertainment. In Unit Three, we’ll turn to the question of revolution. We’ll discuss how resistance is sparked and cultivated. We’ll ask whether there is such a thing as a just war and whether the war portrayed in the novels is one. We will consider what makes a revolution legitimate, and we’ll compare what we see in the novels to contemporary social movements.

The Hunger Games is a thrilling and compelling read with impressive levels of nuance and complexity. Through this course, I hope not only that you will come to appreciate this literary work at a deeper level, but also that you will gain and appreciate new philosophical tools for questioning the society in which we live.