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While literary texts rely on words to help readers imagine climate change, film relies on a different narrative toolset of images, motion, and sound, pre-packaging our perception, if not our affective response. In climate change cinema, such pre-packaging has tended toward the dark and disastrous as filmmakers are torn between the desire to forewarn and the need to entertain and make money. It has thus become a critical commonplace that cinematic depictions of climate change offer a spectacle-driven, apocalyptic vision that is at odds with the diffuse experience of climate and the slow violence of climate change. Some critics fear such dark visions might prove detrimental to addressing the issue because people end up disengaging from it. The first part of the chapter explores emotions cued by dystopian depictions of climate doom. The second part turns to two films that have tried an entirely different affective approach – Cyril Dion and Melanie Laurent’s Demain and Damon Gameau’s 2040 – by presenting possible solutions to the climate crisis along with desirable futures, in a mode that is often humorous, witty, and uplifting. The chapter argues that both strategies have their place in climate change cinema, and both can be effective with some audiences.
Focusing on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, this chapter considers the Child as a conventional figure of futurity – as elucidated by Lee Edelman, Robin Bernstein, Natalia Cecire, Rebecca Evans, and Rebekah Sheldon. What happens to this figure when race becomes explicitly a part of narratives in which children, put into perilous motion by environmental collapse, struggle to find a safe place to grow up? One possible consequence, as Dimaline’s novel illustrates, is the granting to young characters an independent existence from the meanings encoded by the Child. Unlike The Road, which centers the father’s sense of guilt on the son having to find ways to survive in an environmentally destroyed world, The Marrow Thieves centers on young adult characters who struggle to hold together a non-familial community amid an environmental crisis. They think explicitly about how stories can bind them together in the pursuit of common survival even as they can tear individuals apart because of the horrors they recall, and in doing so imagines a future that comes into being in part as a result of the exercise of this agency.
The Nordic Model was originally understood as a compromise between Western and Soviet systems. The Soviet Union has been gone for a generation, but the Nordic Model survives. Much of this has to do with the Model's change from an economic to a largely cultural model. In particular the Model has come to emphasize human (especially women's) rights; environmental consciousness; and cultural innovation. While these each contain an element of fantasy, they retain sufficient substance to provide encouragement to 'progressive' circles in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries. Important in its own right, the Nordic Model provides a fascinating case study of the transmission of goods and ideas between different regions, and the ability of a small and out of the way region to maintain its own identity in a globalized world.
The material properties of platform and medium figure prominently in Scott Rettberg’s examination of digital fiction as literary engagements with computer code, video gaming, hypertext, audio and visual plug-ins, and virtual reality. Narratives with multiple or interactive pathways, role-playing and perspectival shifts, and mass authorship reconceptualize postmodern and contemporary literary themes and techniques within digital textualities.
Sophie Hackford explores the idea that the way that computers see the world is becoming our dominant reality. The idea that a physical object, and its data ‘exhaust’, are in constant dialogue with each other. As machine autonomy creeps into our everyday lives, we are creating a physical internet, where people, objects, vehicles move as seamlessly in the real world as data moves around the internet. Digital bots or ‘agents’ might represent us in interactions with our banks, friends, colleagues. Autonomous companies might soon be big players in the economy. Hackford will explore a world where human and machine ‘vision’ will collaborate, compete and even merge together.
This chapter explores the trajectory of American urban ethnic literature, focusing on Italian American fiction –– after brief consideration of Jewish American fiction –– as selected writers make their journey from immigrants to ethnics. Unlike the few Italian immigrant writers who preceded them, whose work argued for acceptance as human beings and recognition as Americans, the children and grandchildren of Italian immigrants documented and explored the conditions under which they were born and raised. We see over the years in the shift from earlier Italian-American writers’ origin narratives featuring struggles with the host culture, alienation from the ancestral culture, and the price of integration, to the inward turn of later writers whose work mark the passage of the literary city from realist to modernist narrative. That inward turn toward loss in later generations is not merely formal; it measures the distance between a vibrant ethnic urban world commonly founded on regional identities (often called campanilismo) to the shards of memory, the ancestral ghosts that survive in recreated identities, and poses the aesthetic and existential question of what to make of it.
Chapter 6, “Reproduction and Dystopia,” sets out to show that Aldous Huxley’s well-known satire of a reproductive future in Brave New World – humans engineered in bottles, sorted into different classes – is only a small part of his complex moral attitude toward procreation. Novels like Point Counter Point and Island make clear that it was not only cold reproductive technologies that worried Huxley: he considered any creation of new persons to be an ethical quandary. He was prescient in his concern about the environmental degradation brought on by overpopulation – in 1928 he was already warning of humanity’s “tropism toward fossilized carrion.” Huxley’s work betrays a deep melancholy about the peopling of the earth. In this respect he is a kind of prophet for a dystopian tradition that is still with us. This chapter, in its second half, turns from Huxley to his heirs – contemporary novelists like Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michel Houellebecq – whose glittering dystopian fantasies cannot conceal a more ordinary despair about the perpetuation of human life.
“Everyday Micro-utopias” recapitulates themes from Climate Change, Literature, and Environmental Justice through an examination of pedagogy as a form of what Rebecca Solnit terms “building paradise” in the classroom. I draw on my experience teaching a class on climate change over the past several years, where my students and I remain in the presence of the unbearable grief of climate change, displacements, relocations, and extinctions. The course is a space to imaginine collective responses to climate change that carve what Nicolas Bourriad calls “micro-utopias” within the status quo. I offer a notated syllabus with readings, assignment notes, and the narrative that binds the course together. In the final pages of the epilogue, I turn to N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth speculative trilogy, which imagines revolutions of the enslaved that end the world and make possible a new beginning anchored in the archeology of past insurrection.
Critically examining the eugenic and utopian underpinnings of central narrative frameworks in climate change discourse, this chapter argues that our imagination of the future requires different forms of engagement with the past. I interrogate the rhetoric of collapse and look at two primary climate narratives, “the lifeboat” and “the collective,” which engage both eugenic ideologies and utopian imaginaries. Through a reading of Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler, the chapter examines how disability theory can disrupt narratives of survival and offer possibilities for thinking through the defamiliarization of place, bodies, and identities under climate disruption. In the final section, I turn to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016) and Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain (1988). I argue that Whitehead’s and Bisson’s speculative histories are revolutionary acts of memory, reimagining history in ways that shift the trajectories of shared futures.
This chapter explores a mise-en-scène familiar to us from postapocalyptic movies and video games: that of a future American city emptied of human life and activity. After tracing this chronotope back to early nineteenth-century European romantic fantasies of the “last man,” the essay considers how it came to be applied, with variations, to American cities between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth. Examples include works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, H. G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois as well as those by largely forgotten authors, and encompass utopian and apocalyptic fiction as well as dystopian and postapocalyptic. Critics have largely characterized such visions of urban desolation as a negative, cathartic expression of some fear, whether of ethnic others, natural disaster, or nuclear warfare. This chapter, however, recovers the productive possibilities they offered. Vacated cityscapes empowered readers to reflect critically upon modern urban life, in particular new phenomena such as skyscraper architecture, technological infrastructure, the experience of surging crowds and webs of social interdependency, the suppression of nature, the impermanence of urban space, and racial segregation.
There are three problems with Anglo-American twenty-first century feminist dystopian imaginings: a lack of critical dystopias, that is, texts that carefully balance utopia and dystopia in order to retain political motivational power; the imaginative exploitation of female suffering for commercial gain, in particular the commodification of Black pain; and, a lack of critical distance from reality. This chapter considers how feminist critical dystopias might be reimagined from an intersectional twenty-first-century perspective, both theoretically and through literary criticism. Darko Suvin’s theory of science fiction identifies the necessity of estrangement, and of balancing utopia and dystopia to retain the politically motivating power of critique. The chapter interrogates Suvin’s concept of the ‘zero world’ from a feminist perspective, suggesting that contemporary feminist critical dystopias might be most empowered and empowering if mapped in relation to the (almost) universal zero world of women not in power. The second section comprises an analysis of Naomi Alderman’s The Power (2016) as an example of a contemporary feminist dystopia that performs these theoretical requirements.
This chapter asks why Orwell’s novel is so often referred to as a satire even though it lacks, for the most part, the humour that is commonly associated with that mode. It begins by locating Orwell in the ancient tradition of Juvenalian satire, in which moral indignation rather than amusement predominates. It then turns to the more specific tradition of utopian and dystopian satire, in which fictional words are constructed in order to offer a contrast to, or exaggeration of, the present society, with the aim of critiquing existing social and political trends. Laying out a history of dystopia, it examines key works in this tradition – from Thomas More’s Utopia and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels through more recent texts by H. G. Wells, Jack London, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Aldous Huxley, and others – and their importance as precursors to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Finally, it examines Orwell’s own satiric technique in the novel, both his subtle methods of comic ridicule (generally directed at British apologists for Stalinism) and his more direct attacks on totalitarianism proper, which are woven into the setting and the action of the novel.
We live in Orwellian times. We have also lived through, and continue to live in, an age of post-Orwellian novels. Books by writers as varied as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Anthony Burgess, Philip K. Dick, Cory Doctorow, Dave Eggers, Maggie Gee, Ursula Le Guin, Michel Houellebecq, and Will Self, not to mention Suzanne Collins, Patrick Ness, and Veronica Roth, among numerous others, attest to the influence Nineteen Eighty-Four has exerted, and still exerts, on the literary imagination. This chapter considers the creative legacy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, looking at how writers have appropriated and adapted the literary form of Orwell’s text, and how they have responded to its visions of surveillance, state power, and erasure of identity. This chapter thus considers the status Orwell’s novel holds in the twenty-first century as a formative influence on the dystopian genre and as a text that continues to shape the way in which authors address the anxieties of their own times.
‘If there is hope, […] it lies in the proles.’ Thus writes Winston Smith in his secret diary, in one of the most famous formulations from Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). This chapter takes a historical and historicist view of this remark, situating Winston’s and the novel’s account of the Oceanian proletariat in relation to Orwell’s understanding of the economico-political predicament of the working class in the 1930s and 1940s. The chapter considers the highly contentious bind into which Nineteen Eighty-Four puts the so-called ‘proles’, a group it constructs from a largely exterior point of view: caught between Winston’s belief in that group’s inevitable, albeit temporally distant, victory, and O’Brien’s insistence that the alleged ‘animalism’ of the proletariat will prevent it from gaining any kind of purchase on the future. I first outline how Orwell’s thinking on the relationship between socialism and the working class developed through the 1930s and 1940s, from The Road to Wigan Pier to the welfare state. I then discuss the moral and reproductive functions ascribed to the proles in the novel in light of Orwell’s political commitments, before addressing the question of whether the novel despairs of class politics, as thinkers such as Raymond Williams have argued.
This chapter argues that we should take seriously Orwell’s claim, in his 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, that ‘what I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art’. By examining how this ambition of yoking art to politics plays out in Orwell’s final novel, it places Nineteen Eighty-Four within the context of the literary problems and practices of Orwell’s precursors and contemporaries. First, it considers his relationship with literary modernism and its legacies, with particular reference to his analysis of the work of James Joyce and Henry Miller, for instance in the 1940 essay ‘Inside the Whale’. Next, it examines Nineteen Eighty-Four in the light of earlier dystopian and speculative fiction by William Morris, Aldous Huxley, E. M. Forster, Jack London, Katharine Burdekin, Storm Jameson, and others; it also considers the influence on Orwell of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Finally, it assesses depictions of writing and the politics of language within the novel, and how their treatment might relate to Orwell’s sense of his place within twentieth-century literature.
Traces of George Orwell’s critiques of totalitarian society, in both blunt and subtle forms, exist throughout video games. Major themes of dystopia, surveillance culture, technologies of control, authoritarianism, and the oppression of a large underclass exist in innumerable game narratives and environments. Do games like the BioShock series (2007– ), Remember Me (2013), Watch Dogs series (2014– ), We Happy Few (2018), Orwell (2016–), Inside (2016), and Papers, Please (2013) encourage critical thought around the eventuality of totalitarianism, of which Orwell warned? Or, are these games merely systems in which to practise a kind of entrapment, in which so-called ‘freedom’ may be performed within a medium that is exceedingly ordered in its very constitution? Through the stories games tell, as well as in the very form of video games, is it even possible to truly stimulate a model of criticality? This chapter proposes that the critical influence of Nineteen Eighty-Four exists not only in video game narratives and the constitution of their navigable spaces, but also in the wide variety of strategies, rule-based systems, rhetorical capacities, ethical problematics and – most importantly – their strategic kinds of failure.
This chapter reads the feminist fiction of the 1970s through its interrogation of the relationship between gender and the credit economy. The first section offers a theoretical account of the ways in which the languages of credit have been deeply gendered, in both the anthropological traditions of Mauss and the critical traditions of Marx. The second section explores the ways in which these gendered languages of both money and the gift were played out through liberal and conservative feminism of the 1970s, as women were being trained to understand the limits of their own place in a system of exchange. The final two sections examine how feminist fiction offered a counter-narrative. It explores both the rejection of accounting as strategy of selfhood in the consciousness-raising fiction of the 1970s and the articulation of a more radical alternative in the feminist science fiction of the decade.
This concluding chapter, which focuses on the work of Thomas Pynchon, returns us to the history of credit across the long twentieth century told in the book’s opening chapter. It argues that Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz functions as a recurring trope for the futility of the quest to discover what lies behind the money form in Pynchon’s work. The first section reads Gravity’s Rainbow and argues that it uses Dorothy from Victor Fleming’s 1939 film as a symbol of a compensatory fantasy. She embodies the false hope that one can return home, a hope that is associated in the novel with Tyrone Slothrop’s discovery that home is itself connected to the state’s violent complicity with the privatisation of money. Against the Day reprises this narrative but turns, instead, to the Dorothy of Baum’s 1900 novella as it seeks to uncover the alternative histories that Fleming’s cinematic adaptation obscures. Dorothy reappears as the daughters of the Traverse and Webb families in a complex narrative that allows Pynchon, finally, to critically explore the gendered language of both money and the gift that run throughout this work as a whole.
This chapter argues that a formal logic of “speculative utopianism” emerged in New Zealand by the 1870s, linking the idea of the settler colony as the future of British identity with the promise that it would reward metropolitan financial investment. The emergence of this logic can be seen in Samuel Butler’s First Year in Canterbury Settlement (1863) and Erewhon (1872), which formalize the association between culture, investment, and settler futurity. The stakes of speculative utopianism were intensified as the colony acquired unprecedented levels of debt, the outcome of a policy to spur development that colonial premier Julius Vogel grounded in claims about the colony’s future potential as an ideal British society. The collapse of New Zealand’s credit led metropolitan writers to attack the assumptions of speculative utopianism, most notably in Trollope’s dystopian The Fixed Period (1882). Two fin de siècle works of speculative utopianism—Vogel’s Anno Domini 2000 (1889) and H. C. Marriott Watson’s Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1890)—reveal a further shift in the status of the settler empire, as the future value of the settler population is now cast in geopolitical terms.
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