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Utopias and Dystopias

2009 March 24
by Laura Blankenship

Images of us in action, giving evidence for our claims…

Dystopia album cover

What is a utopia and a dystopia?

Three questions:

1. What genre is the novel?

2. What technologies of representation does this novel use?

3. How can we best represent the novel (its themes, etc.)?

Utopia: not place–no place; eutopia–ideal place

Dystopia: bad utopia

Anti-utopia: was supposed to be utopia but becomes dystopic


Speculative fiction

-grounded in a world we recognize
-conceivable option for the future
-differentiated from sci fi mostly from absence of or lack of focus on technology
-inverted historical fiction–book could be our present
-incarcerated fiction as opposed to “escapist”

Social science fiction/political science fiction (related to speculative fiction)

-science fiction is about “what ifs”
-thinking about the practice of social scientists
-extrapolation of existing conditions

Critical satire/Satire

-not a direct link to society’s problems–i.e. infertility not connected directly to toxic waste
-parallel vision of a world that already exists, but absurd
-not a no-place
-used to point out our own faults

Speculative sociological dystopia

-examines what would happen if we “mechanized” humans


-internal monologue
-more about Offred’s story and not about the surrounding society
-we have to take whatever she says for what it is

Science fiction/science of government

-broad definition
-concept of warped reality
-between fiction and nonfiction
-rooted in our own world

“gendering our book” or putting it into categories

language as passing

naming/categorizing dictates how you think about something–recognize that categories are flawed, see their limits

are we cogs in a giant machine?

witch hunt aspects of media–>vigilantism

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