I, Utopia : the burgeoning individual in transgressive heterotopian fiction (2017)
AuthorsBensemann, Yvette Gaelshow all
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.