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Context: Dystopian Literature

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Jayme Novara

on 28 January 2016

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Transcript of Context: Dystopian Literature

Context: Dystopian Literature

What is a Dystopia?
A Dystopia is the antonym of a Utopia, which is a perfect society.

"Dys" = bad (18th cent.)

"An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one." -Oxford Dictionary
Communism & the Cold War
This Era of Dystopianism started by Red Scare and fear of Communism.
Focused on a minute social tendency, then extrapolated it to an extreme case
Not strictly anti-Communist, but vast majority of dystopian literature in this era was.
We (1924)
Purpose - To warn readers of what will happen to humanity if science, technology and industry take over the world
Industrial and technological innovations of the 1920s influenced this novel
Nature and passion are banished, all reliance is on numbers and synchronicity
1984 (1949)
Society consumes government propaganda, accepts re-writing of history
Strict divide of social classes, constant spying, encouraged to turn in others
Use of surveillance equipment = Example of Extrapolation at work
Key Fears
@ the turn of 20th century
Genetic engineering, pharmaceuticals
Machines taking over the world
Man serving machine rather than machines serving man
Cultural Context
Key Fears
Common elements in Dystopian novels
Many dystopian novels during this time were set in the future
Often disguised as utopias
Science, technology and the government are more important than the individual
Use of satire
Purpose is to
Key Fears of Communism in US literature
Literary Censorship by the government
Changes to Social Structure
Supresion of Freedom of Expression.
Tyrannical Manifestation
Conformity of Society
Downfall of diversity
Socialistic in nature
Standard Telecasts throughout nation
The most common formula used by Dystopian science fiction writers was taking a social trend, extrapolating it to an extreme level, and highlighting the consequences this extreme social tendency would take.
Dystopia's 3 Waves
Industry, Science, Technology (pre 1900-1945)

Communism & the Cold War, WWII & Vietnam (1945-1980)

Apocalypse & Environmental Dystopianism (1980-Present)

Age of Industry, Science, & Technology
Rapid scientific advances
New developments in technology
Industrial mindset
What's happening at the turn of the century?
Artists changed their point of focus from one of classic beauty to one of industrial design
Musicians experimented with atonality and dissonance
Movies were being made which showed futuristic dystopias
World War II & Vietnam
Rise of the Machines
Totalitarianism & certain other forms of government
The Apocalypse
Antagonists are very clear nods to Nazi Germany, sometimes explicitly.
Moving into Vietnam era, the "unknown" or alien (represented by sci-fi genre) very clearly reminds us of the "Charlie" we cannot see, but know is there
Key Fears in Dystopian Lit following WWII and Written during Vietnam
What are the repercussions of our actions?
What might've happened?
Who is/are the real villian(s)?
What happens when orders are always followed?
How do we care for those who have seen the atrocities of war?
Postmodern style, unreliable narrator: question everything!

Time traveling protagonist who has survived WWII's Battle of the Bulge and the Bombing of Dresden, Germany.
California (2014)
Never Let Me Go (2005)
Apocalyptic & Environmental Dystopias
Set in the near future, doesn't have an "agenda" necessarily.
Concentration on bands of survivors, focus on the individual.
Threat from machines, genetic manipulation, gender discrimination, etc.
Key fears in Apocalyptic literature
Social upheaval
Economic collapse
Zombies (not really)
Biological Warfare
What else can you think of?
Children are cloned and raised as organ donors. The use of words is now completely changed to reflect the use of this new class of people. After 3 or 4 "donations" these people eventually die.
Economic collapse leads a couple to leave L.A. and live off the land. What happens when a couple lives in isolation? What happens when a woman becomes pregnant? Are there others? Leadership of survivors takes on cult-like religious significance.
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