I, Utopia : the burgeoning individual in transgressive heterotopian fiction
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Through the close examination of five novels that are popularly thought of as examples of ‘dystopian’ science-fiction, this thesis sets out to reconfigure Foucault’s notion of the heterotopia, and in doing so revitalise the increasingly marginalised concept of the utopia and the utopian literary tradition. Having theorised a version of the heterotopia that differs somewhat from that postulated originally by Foucault in that it is dynamic and transgressive, I locate and examine what I consider to be prototypically heterotopian spaces in what are generally portrayed as archetypically dystopian texts – Evgenii Zamiatin’s We (1924) and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Having identified key features of these spaces – they are inherently ambiguous, in that they encompass and display both utopian and dystopian features, and are as much of a threat to the individual as they are a refuge for them – I then move on to an examination of the narratively constituted individual and the ways in which it is enabled – and undermined – by what I believe to be the predominantly heterotopian spaces of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992), Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World (2008) and Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward (1994). Throughout the course of my analysis of these texts, I argue that the heterotopia offers the means by which the progressively redundant utopia / dystopia binary and concomitant dualisms can be dismantled, and new spaces that make allowances for the oft-conflicting needs, desires and narratives of the individual, and reflect more accurately the hybrid nature of the society in which they are located can be considered.