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Mid Twentieth-Century Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought

STOCK, ADAM (2011) Mid Twentieth-Century Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 25 April 2018.

Abstract

This thesis examines political and social thought in dystopian fiction of the mid-twentieth century. It focuses on works by four authors: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and John Wyndham’s postwar novels (especially The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953) and The Chrysalids (1955)).

The central concern of this thesis is how political and social ideas are developed within a literary mode which evolved as response to both literary concerns and political ideas, including on the one hand literary utopias, science fiction, satire, and literary modernism; and on the other hand modernity, social Darwinism, apocalypse, war, and changes in gender roles in the broader culture. It is argued that the narrative structures of these novels are crucial in enabling them to perform such critical tasks. These texts use fictionality to enact self-reflexive critiques of the disasters of their age that both acknowledge their own emergence from the post-Enlightenment tradition in the history of political ideas, and criticise the failings of this very tradition of which they are part. The work of a variety of critical theorists, including Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Hannah Arendt and Raymond Williams inform this analysis. This thesis aims to demonstrate how comparative readings of critical theory and literature can reveal their mutually interactive significance as cultural reactions to historical events.

Dystopian fictions of the mid-twentieth century are both important documents in cultural history, and valuable literary examples of the development and diffusion of a plurality of modernisms within popular fiction.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Dystopia, Utopia, science fiction, sf, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin, John Wyndham, Critical Theory, Literary Modernism, Frankfurt School, Hannah Arendt, Raymond Williams, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, fiction, political thought, political philosophy, the novel, apocalypse, war, World War II, postwar, cold war, nuclear arms, atom bomb, disaster, catastrophe, cultural history, intellectual history, history of ideas, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984, Brave New World, We, The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 Mar 2012 15:49

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