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The Persistence of Hope

The Persistence of Hope

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the persistence of hope in dystopian science fiction
the persistence of hope in dystopian science fiction

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Published by: anna_udvardi on Mar 11, 2013
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The Persistence of Hope in Dystopian Science Fiction Author(s): Raffaella Baccolini Source: PMLA, Vol. 119, No.

3, Special Topic: Science Fiction and Literary Studies: The Next Millennium (May, 2004), pp. 518-521 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25486067 . Accessed: 20/10/2011 05:37
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It is a hybrid approach. And. a new oppositional and resisting form of writing. From the very beginning I have foregrounded issues of genre writing as they intersect with gender and the deconstruction ture. Utopia has been both attacked and co-opted. Identity.'s Late Poetry with 1995) and coeditor. of Dark Horizons: Tom Moylan. reaction of the 1980s and the triumph of free market liberalism of the 1990s. Science Fiction and the Dystopian nation Imagi She is cur 2003). killed many more people. (Routledge. I find in the recent works of the genre. combining these circumstances primarily with an interest in feminist theory and in writing by women. however. my reading of science fiction has American modernism) been shaped by my cultural and biographical circumstances as well as by my geography. glish at the University of Bologna. I consider myself a "child of conflict.[ PMLA correspondents abroad The Persistence of Hope inDystopian Science Fiction ITIS WIDELY ACCEPTED TODAY WHENEVER RECEIVE WE OR THAT. RAFFAELLA BACCOLINI PRODUCE WE A POSITION AND CULTURE. She is the author of Tradition. on memory. Fori). from 1969 on. must also come Because I am an Italian trained in the United States of high and low cul to terms with the polit ical and cultural circumstances that characterize this turn of the century. the years of lead also have shaped my approach to science fiction. which like the rest of Italy was marked by the "years of lead" (anni di piombo) of ter rorism?the attacks by the Red Brigades that between 1976 and 1980 killed almost a hundred people as well as the bombings by extreme-right terrorists together with state apparatuses that.1 have no direct recollection of 1968. Le Guin's The Telling (26).D. in (specializing in the 1980s. Since the conservative It has been conflated with materialist and devalued. to a certain extent." to borrow the words the Eku menical Envoy uses to describe the Terran Observer Sutty in Ursula K. in their themes and in their formal features. Strategies in H. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the recent produc Raffaella Baccolini is professor of En tion of dystopian science fiction speaks to me more than do the Utopias of the 1960s and early 1970s. nostalgia. DO SO FROM CERTAIN that such location influences how we theorize about and read the world. rather. satisfaction has has and thus commodified come become to represent an outmoded the consumerism Utopia contemporary 5l8 ? 2004 BY THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA . Born in 1960. I belong to the generation of the 1970s. Desire: Revisionist (Patron. In a society modality where of happiness. rently working and deferral in utopia. Such an approach. one that maintains a Utopian science fiction and in these anti horizon in the pages of dystopian utopian times.

The ways in which gender enters into and is constructed by the form of genre have some bearing on. and much at producing the future ("Telling" science fiction research by women schol ars (Joanna Russ. subversive. therefore in the time We that we may past tory but what that be active in history. which is none other thanmaterial success.i 19-3 Raffaella Baccolini 519 value. -! ft tt 0 2 a ft 2 tt & 0" -t 0 & a tially literary institutions. through . and prac graded product?held themes and obsessions at bay. and a writer's. Sarah Lefanu. in turn. because we the past we we changed. boundaries. science I am interested its deconstruction of women's us to recognize in the dis and take a subver ap on analysis allows oppositional literary forms. whose highlight the transgressive and radical nature of some of its works being written today. or social contracts be tween a writer and a specific public. taboo. we may ideology. and perhaps de monic want and sive and oppositional strategy against hege As feminist scholars. Carol Farley Kessler. of partisan is rewritten. to question exclusionary the notion of genre. and In particular. lot to define tion aimed preventing by Anne Cranny-Francis. Similarly. times in which it was Iwas a child. it is an impor line so a culturally constructed and rest on the binary between what is normal and what is deviant?a notion that feminist criti as it consigns feminine to the pole of deviation and inferiority. because we need to develop a critical perspective that can point us toward action and change. in ideologies" (Schenck 282). as a forbidden. Marleen Barr. There's function is to specify the proper use of a partic ular cultural artifact" (Jameson 106. and yet rich in which are repressed in politics?notions high culture" (Marc Angenot qtd. it different worlds that can work as a purely imaginative (at worst) or a critical (at best) exploration of our society. toward does ac and 1-2) a imagine what are working will consider the future we fear. have been traditionally one of the measures against which to judge a work's. sent a form of counternarrative to hegemonic tices that have proved detrimental for women? and investigate instead the intersection of gender and generic fiction. any out require his zeal. The intersection of gender and genre has opened up the creation of new. as it "occupies the space outside the literary en closure. ourselves it nor the stories I was I seemed been task to lead at it ever to situate I began To me to fix them. conventions. leads to us. of the present. We sense. in a by a statement Marge Piercy that I find striking for its simplic ity and lucidity at once: When history told have tant historical written. emphasis added). however. practice Feminist reappropriations of generic fiction can cism has deconstructed become a radical and oppositional The use of generic fiction as a form of strategy. what we write. the traditionally opposi cite only a few) has investigated the ways in which gender informs science fiction. Science fiction is al ready regarded as a potentially subversive genre. I need stories that speak tome. political resistance by women has been studied. Science fiction has then the potential. and an analysis of a single work in relation to the genre it belongs to also allows us to understand that work as a product of the genres and literary Genres are then are "drenched are. After not just has revolution. to Women's concerns science and fiction today of speaks strategies to our and through a series features has renovated tional nature of the genre. Inmy to science fiction I try to find ways to Genres. In its developments. course of genre An fiction and propriation. I first noticed that neither as I was taught to me. in Parrinder it has come to repre 46). corresponds to what Darko Suvin has called the "Disneyfica tion strategy" (194)?a notion and a practice our approach Italian prime minister has fully embraced. with their set rules. Genres are "essen ft 0 -. greatness. The pursuit of individual happiness. the creation of new critical texts. among doable we want others. Lee Cullen Khanna. and expectations. since. In its extrapolation has the potential to envision discourse. Far from being mere aesthetic markers.

Both Smith and Julia. Draw criticism of universalist as singularity. the critical dystopia opens and opposition other ex-centric to the exploration certainties and of a space of contestation groups?women and for those subjects universalist damaging stereotypes?about gendered identi ties by addressing. In Kindred. and Butler's Kin dred and Parable of the Sower. and our times. Le Guin's The Telling. She. and oppositional texts is their of different genre conventions. in a dialectical engagement with tradition. Butler revises the conventions of the time travel story and cre ates a novel that is both science fiction and neo Similarly. Women's science fiction novels have contributed and subsequent breakdown assumptions?those sure. Another factor thatmakes of resistance blending ing on the feminist sumptions. by rejecting impulse the traditional subjugation of the individual at the end of the novel. has become expression of struggle terms with the decade's most historical wood science fiction novel. reproduction and sex uality. together with the recovery of individual and collective memory. situated and hybridity. Atwood's are Margaret Tale. critical and am biguous and mainly produced by feminist writ ers. open endings maintain to hope: the the Utopian within the work. knowledge of difference. and It. While At the preferred and resistance. society. themes such as the representation of women and their bodies. Le Guin combines a political fable with storytelling for The her most of recent an novel of genre. Science fiction's op positional and critical potential was instead re covered and renovated in the production of a number of writers such as Octavia E. Piercy creates an al icism foreclosed the conservative any real subversive critique of society. cultural one with contact. such as no escape for them. and Kim Stanley Robinson. But genres change in relation to the times. depressing genre with no space for hope in the story. and language and its relation to identity. and neutral and objective and acknowledging the importance science fic "dystopian turn" inAnglo-American tion (see Baccolini and Moylan). In fact. form for an employs the conventions of the diary and the epistolary novel in The Handmaid's Tale. the narrative hegemonic about the past dis and Inmost of these novels George Orwell's Nineteen crushed by the totalitarian learning. by resisting clo collective memory to the point that individual . This kind of writing. have produced what a series of scholars have addressed as a whose subject position is not contemplated by whom subject status hegemonic discourse?for these novels sites has yet to be attained. course Because shapes it is authoritarian. the recovery of his tory and literacy. tradition ally a bleak. for example. to move estrangement its reader to see the differences of an elsewhere and thus think critically about the reader's own world and possibly act on and change that world. becomes an instrumental tool of resistance for their protago nists. the main characters of Eighty-Four. Le Guin. only outside the story: only by considering dystopia as a warning can we as able borders other monic genres. there is no But The recent novels Handmaid's ture of science fiction. ideology that allow represents and contamination resistance the from na to a hege resisting renovates Winston readers hope to escape such a dark future. strategies to come to turned to dystopian silencing and co-opting of Utopia. allow readers and protagonists ambiguous. recent dystopian fic knowledges. characterized by a general shift to the right in the 1980s and 1990s. Butler. complexity. the early 1980s saw the appearance of the cyberpunk movement. who slave narrative. whose somewhat self-indulgent cyn multiplicity. by fragmenting her a future society with a tale (itself the account of record of oral storytelling) of sixteenth-century Prague in He. tion by women resists genre purity in favor of a hybrid text that renovates dystopian science fic tion by making it politically and formally oppo sitional. perme notion impure Utopia is maintained in dystopia. After the re vival of Utopia in the 1960s and 1970s.520 The Persistence of Hope in Dystopian Science Fiction PMLA 0 k ?s tt e tt C 0 a tt tt o w and cognitive mapping. Piercy.

Suvin. Fredric. in an indi memory need to pass through the critical dystopias today tomove toward a horizon of hope. of and regressive but critical nostalgia. Raffaella." Baccolini and Moylan . Kindred. New York: Fawcett. New York: Warner. New York: Harcourt. It is in the acceptance of responsibility and accountability. -. and It. Ed. Darko. Fiction The Handmaid's Tale. Instead of providing and comforting conclusion. York: Routledge. that we bring the past into a living relation with the present and may Utopian Socially Ithaca: Cornell Le Guin.281-305. as they uct of our dark times." Utopian 1991. too In often classical trapped dystopia. to lay the foundations to engage with for Piercy. Science Fiction: 1980. Schenck. Science and sponsibility dystopia's are the conditions citizens. Bella Brodzki and Schenck. necessary step for a collective remains action. awareness and re vidual ft 0 -i "1 ft ^ "0 0 2 a. of the Sower. Marge. Studies 5 It is important dystopias of recent the critical are the prod "All of a Piece: Women's Poetry and Au decades. thus begin change. compensatory Narrative 1981. eds. George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. individual recollec tion therefore becomes the first. often worked through mem ory and the recovery of the past. New of the critical sadness accom -. But the presence of Utopian hope does not necessarily mean a happy ending. London: Methuen. Anne." Life/Lines: Theorizing Women's Autobiog Ithaca: Cornell raphy. UP. Parrinder. The Telling. 1993. ft 2 tt CP -? 0 & a Works Cited Atwood. 1995. Boston: Hough **> Baccolini. By looking at the formal and political features of science fiction. 1949. Its Criticism and Teach ing. We tobiography. 1979. New York: Harcourt. Patrick. ton. 2000. Rather. Dark Horizons: Imagination. Celeste. Ursula Orwell. She. 1993. Margaret. show that a culture of memory?one dystopias that moves tive?is from the individual to the collec part of a social project of hope. "Theses 187-201. Martin's. Generic Fiction. Feminist Fiction: Feminist Cranny-Francis. Jameson. dystopia's open ending leaves its characters to deal with their choices and respon sibilities. Unconscious: UP. we can see how these works point us toward change. The Political Symbolic Act. He. New York: St. Butler. the Dystopian 2003. Octavia Parable E.i i 9 3 Raffaella Baccolini 521 memory has been erased. A sense of and Tom Moylan. Uses of as a panies some the awareness protagonist the critical and knowledge that the has attained. 1985. on Dystopia 2001. "Telling (1994): 1-3. Stories about Stories. London: Women's. K. 1990.

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