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Introduction to Dystopian Literature

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Charlee Bassillo

on 4 April 2016

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Transcript of Introduction to Dystopian Literature

Introduction to Dystopian Literature
A genre of literature in which works are set in the future, or in a present time setting disrupted by a plot device (new invention or alien being)
Also called
speculative fiction
because it supposes what life might be in the future or an alternative past
Science Fiction
Be Patient
: You may have to read several pages before you start "getting it."
Approaches to Reading Sci-Fi & Dystopian Lit:
Respects the limits of scientific or pseudo-scientific possibility
Has a moral or ethical message
Tries to discern humanity's role in the universe
its ability to foresee tomorrow's crises
its ability to dramatize human implications and consequences
act out alternatives
Value of SciFi lies in ...
Sometimes "anti-utopian"
Sub-genre of Science Fiction
Developed as a contrast to Sir Thomas More's
Dystopia (n):
In dystopian fiction, the futuristic society is featured as
incredibly imperfect
Purpose =
(to teach a lesson)
Often written to satirize or caution against current-day movements
Propaganda that "points fearfully" at the future "for a change of attitude in the present"
regime oppressing members of society
rejection of past
Character or group of characters hoping for reform
Dystopias often feature:
Author's Purpose -
What lesson is being taught?
Conventions -
How does the work fit within or differ from the conventions of the subgenre?
Prepare to Be Offended -
The ideas presented in dystopian literature are not pleasant.
While reading dystopian literature, consider:
Structure of Society:
Keep track of the "caste system" and hierarchies
figure out not just "Who's who?" but
"Who's important?"
Word Games:
Look out for allusions, popular mottoes, cliches, and neologisms adapted from familiar words/phrases
Keep in mind that the author's objective in the dystopian novel is to make the reader think about his or her own world.
Areas of Focus in
Have patience and be willing to suspend disbelief.
Read. Then reread.
List and define new and important terms/concepts.
Summarize and annotate!
Do Now:
What does your "perfect school" look like?

Would it ever be possible to develop a truly perfect society?
What conditions would be necessary?
What might happen if we tried?
Hmm... Consider This:
What does your version of a
look like?

A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.
coined by Sir Thomas More when he published his fictional/philosophical Latin novel in 1516
Derived from:
(‘not’) +
suffix = "no-place-land"
More described it as a "place of felicitie"

Which utopia is the most commonly alluded to?
Alludes to the the idea that all men are innately sinful (thanks to Adam and Eve’s fall from the state of innocence by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge)
Adam's transgression = mankind's consequential inheritance of a sinful nature/lack of perfection.
Garden of Eden
Utopia (
So.. What is the resulting opposite of a utopia?
Dystopian Literature
Derives from prefix
- (Latin: "bad") +
(Greek: "place")
futuristic, imagined universe in which the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through various methods of oppressive societal control.

through exaggerated worst-case scenario, dystopian literature presents a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system

Based on its critical purpose, what does dystopian literature seem to closely resemble or classify as?
Propaganda is used to control citizens.
Characteristics of a Dystopian Society
A figurehead or concept is worshipped by citizens of the society.
Society is an
of the perfect utopian world.
Citizens conform to uniform expectations (Individuality = bad!)
The natural world is banished and distrusted.
Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
Citizens are perceived to be under some sort of constant surveillance.
Information, independent thought, and freedom are all restricted.
Corporate Control:
control of society by one or more of its large corporations through products, advertising, and/or media.
Types of Dystopian Control
Bureaucratic Control:
society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent goverment officials.
Technological Control:
society is controlled through technology such as computers, robots, or other scientific means.
Philosophical/Religious Control:
society is controlled by philosophical or religious ideology, often enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic government.
The Dystopian Protagonist
helps the audience recognize the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his/her perspective

often feels trapped and is usually struggling to escape
questions the existing social and political systems
believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he/she lives
: You have to remember content across numerous passages to make meaning out of the entire work.
Build Vocab Skills
: Rely on contextual clues for unfamiliar terminology.
: If you're confused, acknowledge it and reread the challenging sections of text.
Suspend Disbelief
: Accept the universe the author presents.
Okay - but how could these "perfect" things go wrong?
Full transcript