The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

Synopsis

While literary utopias depict an ideal society and reflect an optimistic belief in the triumph of humanity and government, dystopias present a society marked by suffering caused by human and political evils. This book offers a detailed study of several literary dystopias and analyzes them as social criticism. The volume begins with a discussion of utopias, dystopias, and social criticism. By drawing upon the theories of Freud, Nietzsche, and others, Booker sets a firm theoretical foundation for the literary explorations that follow. The chapters that come next discuss Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, and Orwell's 1984 as social criticism of totalitarianism, Stalinism, the dangers of capitalism, and fascism. Later chapters consider dystopias after World War II, contemporary communist dystopias, and postmodernist dystopias in the West.

Excerpt

On the outskirts of the once-sleepy hamlet of Orlando, Florida, lies the vast Disneyworld theme park, a marvel of technology and efficiency that ostensibly serves as a major modern embodiment of the kinds of utopian dreams that have inspired visionary thinkers throughout the history of Western civilization. In one area of the park lies a fairyland of castles and cartoons (appropriately called the Magic Kingdom) where childhood fantasies come to life. In another area lies the Epcot Center segment of the park, dramatizing in more adult fashion the potential of technology to build a better tomorrow. Still another area of the park takes visitors behind the scenes of Disney Studios to see movie magic at work firsthand. As a whole, Disneyworld is a dazzling combination of magic and machinery, the double nature of which mirrors the nature of the utopian project itself, which takes its inspiration from both fantasy and technology.

The worldwide proliferation of theme parks in recent decades demonstrates the allure of the kinds of utopian fantasies represented by Disneyworld and similar parks. Part of this allure is pure escapism, of course, and Disneyworld clearly represents both the negative image of utopian dreaming as escape from reality and the positive image of utopian thought as the practical Aristotelian entelechy of the ideal Platonic potential that already lies in reality. Indeed, the park has a multifaceted significance that illustrates the complexity of the utopian project as a whole. Disneyworld is an impressive display of human imaginative and technological capability in which visitors to the park themselves contribute to this utopian atmosphere, coming from around . . .

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