California Studies Association

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“The Utopian Impulse in California Culture” – Blog post by Peter Richardson

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In his blog, Peter Richardson, who teaches California culture at San Francisco State University, writes, “Without really thinking about it, I started exploring a new aspect of the main theme in my San Francisco State class–the utopian impulse in California culture.”  He continues:

My exploration started with the film “Humboldt County,” which I finally saw on DVD a few weeks ago. It’s about an emotionally shut down medical student in Los Angeles who reconnects with the world after he stumbles upon an alternative (read: pot-growing) scene in Northern California. No need to rehearse the plot details here, but the people he meets are deeply ambivalent about the utopian–or is it dystopian?–community they’ve created.

More at the blog.

For me, I can’t hear the words “utopia” and “California” without thinking about William Alexander McClung’s book, Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles, in which Prof. McClung describes how the conflict between utopian dreams and arcadian dreams has defined so much of the culture in L.A.; I suspect the mythologies also have currency in other parts of the state. –Frank Gruber

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