The Dystopian Turn
Still, this is the advantage of the new direction, that we do not anticipate the world dogmatically but that we first try to discover the new world from a critique of the old one. . . . If the construction and preparation of the future is not our business, then it is the more certain what we do have to consummate--I mean the ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless also in the sense that criticism does not fear its results and even less so a struggle with the existing powers.
-- KARL MARX, "LETTER TO ARNOLD RUGE"1
Dystopias negotiate the social terrain of Utopia and Anti-Utopia in a less stable and more contentious fashion than many of their eutopian and anti-utopian counterparts. As a literary form that works between these historical antinomies and draws on the textual qualities of both subgenres to do so, the typical dystopian text is an exercise in a politically charged form of hybrid textuality, or what Raffaelia Baccolini calls "genre blurring." 2 Although all dystopian texts offer a detailed and pessimistic presentation of the very worst of social alternatives, some affiliate with a utopian tendency as they maintain a horizon of hope (or at least invite readings that do), while others only appear to be dystopian allies of Utopia as they retain an anti-utopian disposition that forecloses all transformative possibility, and yet others negotiate a more strategically ambiguous position somewhere along the antinomic continuum.
To be sure, the typical narrative structure of the dystopia (with its presentation of an alienated character's refusal of the dominant society) facilitates this politically and formally flexible stance. Indeed (and despite Jameson's hesitations about the nature, structure, and virtues of dystopian narratives), it is precisely that capacity for narrative that creates the possibility for social critique and utopian anticipation in the dystopian text. Paradoxically, dystopias reach toward the cogni