Government Professor Joe Reisert Uses Science Fiction “To Make the World Better”

Social Sciences2 MIN READ

He talks about the appeal of Brave New World, published in the 1930s and set in a futuristic world, in a new video

By Bob KeyesPhotography and video by Gabe Souza
April 7, 2022

Colby government professor Joseph R. Reisert always looks for compelling ways to engage with his students and keep them interested. That includes assigning students to read science fiction in his government classes. Reisert, director of Colby’s Integrated Studies Program and the Christian A. Johnson Professor of Integrative Liberal Learning, uses various sci-fi texts to present a range of societal circumstances and human conditions.

Interesting novels that illustrate complex situations are more likely to resonate with students than conventional works of scholarship, Reisert said, explaining his reasoning for including unlikely texts in his coursework. One of his go-to books is the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Published in the early 1930s and set hundreds of years in the future, Brave New World imagines a society dominated by technology, where citizens are engineered to perform specific jobs, programmed to love their society without question, and where “mother” and “father” are dirty words, and where genuine human emotions are unknown. Reisert, who is also the Harriet S. Wiswell and George C. Wiswell Jr. Professor of American Constitutional Law, uses other books as well, including Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, to help students envision and think about Marx’s social ideals.

The technology magazine Wired featured Reisert last fall, and he recently sat down with Colby News to discuss his use of literature, and science fiction specifically, in his classes.

Reisert hopes his use of science fiction inspires students to think about the world broadly and to make it a better place for everyone.