Transformations Of Language In Modern Dystopias

Overview

As the 20th century has progressed, dystopian fiction has gained power as utopian fiction has become increasingly irrelevant. As an overtly didactic genre, dystopia extrapolates terrifying near-futures from disturbing current trends. In order to quickly create an atmosphere that is at once plausible and terrifying, dystopian writers almost universally turn to an idea certain to generate both fear and sympathy in the reader?the dual concept of language as the primary tool by which repressive societies stifle ...

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Overview

As the 20th century has progressed, dystopian fiction has gained power as utopian fiction has become increasingly irrelevant. As an overtly didactic genre, dystopia extrapolates terrifying near-futures from disturbing current trends. In order to quickly create an atmosphere that is at once plausible and terrifying, dystopian writers almost universally turn to an idea certain to generate both fear and sympathy in the reader—the dual concept of language as the primary tool by which repressive societies stifle dissent, and simultaneously as the primary weapon used by rebels bent on understanding, resisting, and countering such oppression. This volume traces the evolution of language's centrality in 20th-century dystopias in English, including Brave New World, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid's Tale, Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, and Riddley Walker.

The brilliance of Orwell's 1984 has led to a backlash: many critics have smugly asserted that, as the year 1984 has passed without taking the shape of his fiction, Orwell's novel and the dystopia in general have lost their affective power and relevance. But as the 20th century progresses, dystopian fiction has gained power as utopian fiction has become increasingly irrelevant. As an overtly didactic genre, dystopia extrapolates terrifying near-futures from disturbing current trends. In order to quickly create an atmosphere that is at once plausible and terrifying, dystopian writers almost universally turn to an idea certain to generate both fear and sympathy in the reader—the dual concept of language as the primary tool by which repressive societies stifle dissent, and simultaneously as the primary weapon used by rebels bent on understanding, resisting, and countering such oppression.

This volume traces the evolution of language's centrality in 20th-century dystopias in English, beginning with Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984-R. As dystopian fiction has branched out to embrace multiple viewpoints and agendas, the emphasis on language has remained at the center of the dystopian impulse. These include the first-person narrative dystopia, such as Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange; the feminist dystopia, such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Suzette Elgin's Native Tongue and The Judas Rose; and the post-apocalyptic/mythic dystopia, such as Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. While other scholars have often alluded to the importance of language within specific literary dystopias, this book transcends earlier studies by presenting a generic model of dystopian language use.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Explores the central importance of language in dystopian novels, demonstrating that issues of controlling language inform nearly all dystopian fictions and that issues of language are closely intertwined with questions power and freedom in dystopian literature. Looks at insistence on the centrality of language as the key to both repression and rebellion in 20th-century dystopias, analyzing works including , , , , and . Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

DAVID W. SISK is Associate Director of Computing and Information Technology at Macalester College.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Language of Dystopia 1
2 "Plus 'Parfaite' et Moins Libre" 17
3 "It's a Beautiful Thing, the Destruction of Words" 37
4 "Milk with Knives in It" 57
5 The Evolving Nature of Dystopian Languages 79
6 Language and the Feminist Dystopia 107
7 "You Never Know Where It Begun Realy" 137
8 Claiming Mastery Over the Word 161
Selected Bibliography 183
Index 199
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