A Mind for Murder: The Passing of P. D. James. - Free Online Library
Wells, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell share is not, as it may be seen superficially, a critique of one or another form of socio-political organisation but, rather, a critique of and anxiety upon the modern impossibility of achieving a necessary balance between an economic system which may level out or even eradicate social differences and a political system which may control such an achievement and, still, maintain sociocultural individualities untouched at the same time as this achievement is constructed as part of historical materialism. In two of the most important novels of such a trend, Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four , despite the obvious and useless man-versus-system struggle showing not the failure of totalitarian regimes to control all individuals but, rather, the far stronger message that resistance is futile , one of the main dystopian elements is the detachment from the historical continuum by creating a new continuum, in Huxley; by constantly rewriting the continuum, in Orwell.
If, on the one hand, classic eutopias exist regardless of history, the advent of socialist utopianism - and its Marxist critique - bring history to the equation as a vital tool in the maintenance of the system and, thus, of the revolutionary efforts behind it technological revolution in Huxley; political in Orwell.
When one refers to utopianism, both as a political project and as the tools needed to implement such a project - of which literature is but a very important one - one ultimately draws a line. On one side, one finds those classic and undoubtedly eutopian narratives Plato's Republic ; Thomas More's Utopia where one can identify the desire and impulse for the creation of a better society didactically in Plato's case or by comparison with a perfect yet unreal community in More's case.
On the other side, are those 20 th -century narratives which have come to being known as dystopian, primarily represented by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four , where the fears of an undesirable society are presented, either by the strong grasp of Capitalism and scientificism in Huxley or by a deviation of the original Socialist desire for utopia in Orwell. Such a distinction, though, is merely didactic and problematic.
As Lyman Tower Sargent , in his Utopianism - A very brief introduction , when trying to define the genre, states,. They ask whether or not the way we live could be improved and answer that it could. Most utopias compare life in the present and life in the utopia and point out what is wrong with the way we now live, thus suggesting what needs to be done in order to improve things. If it is agreed that the questions utopia asks may refer to expose both the flaws in contemporary society and possible improvements to it in the future, the line that divides utopia and dystopia becomes virtually non-existent.
A superficial analysis of Huxley's and Orwell's novels, for instance, indicates that the societies of the Brave New World and of Oceania, respectively, have not been thought out to be dystopias but eutopias - and, in fact, for part and parcel of the population of those societies, they indeed are eutopias. Raffaella Baccolini and Tom Moylan aptly refer to dystopias as "the dark side of Utopia" 1 , making it not only connected directly to but indivisible from eutopia.
Perhaps it is possible to affirm that the postmodern reinvention of Utopia is as dystopia though not in the old Manichean sense. Dunja M. Mohr , in her article "Transgressive Utopian Dystopias: The Postmodern Reappearance of Utopia in the Disguise of Dystopia" , discusses the impact of the thesis of the end of history on the reinvention of the classic Utopian model of the 19 th and 20 th centuries. Francis Fukuyama explains the apparent end of Utopia as a necessary consequence of the victory of liberal democracies over their alternative political projects:.
We who live in stable, long-standing liberal democracies face an unusual situation. In our grandparents' time, many reasonable people could foresee a radiant socialist future in which private property and capitalism had been abolished, and in which politics itself was somehow overcome. Today, by contrast, we have trouble imagining a world that is radically better than our own, or a future that is not essentially democratic and capitalist.
Within that framework, of course, many things could be improved: we could house the homeless, guarantee opportunity for minorities and women, improve competitiveness, and create new jobs. We can also imagine future worlds that are significantly worse than what we know now, in which national, racial, or religious intolerance makes a comeback, or in which we are overwhelmed by war or environmental collapse.
But we cannot picture to ourselves a world that is essentially different from the present one, and at the same time better. Other, less reflective ages also thought of themselves as the best, but we arrive at this conclusion exhausted, as it were, from the pursuit of alternatives we felt had to be better than liberal democracy.
Fukuyama 's thesis, that Western societies have already reached their social and economic developmental pinnacle, leads us directly to the impossibility of Utopia since it is in itself the very realisation of the utopian project and, thus, whatever might be imagined from within Utopia cannot be eutopic in nature, but dystopic. This may explain, in part, the resurgence of dystopian literature not necessarily connected to its seemingly Siamese genre, science fiction since the early s in Anglophone countries. Although Mohr's construction of the notion of transgressive utopian dystopias stems from the rise of feminist literary utopias in between the s and the s, she explains that.
The texts reject "a determinist, teleological link between past, present and future" Sargisson , and offer multiple or heterogeneous alternative views rather than the possession of one reality and a future. A similar understanding of the connections between Utopia and dystopia in postmodernism can be found in Margaret Atwood's critical study, 3 in which she discusses what she refers to as "ustopia 66 , a genre which blends, even in its very name, the notions of utopia and dystopia. Many of the binaries presented by Mohr as those that are transgressed by the transgressive utopian dystopias centre in the understanding of the body and, in this regard, one may find in Fredric Jameson a possible way of introducing the dystopian body to the argument.
Jameson has always been an avid scientific fiction reader and most if not all theorists devoted to the genre nowadays see in the Marxist critic one of the main responsible academics for giving this genre a truly literary status. In the introduction to his collection of essays on utopia and science fiction, 9 , Jameson traces the connections between utopia and politics - especially in the 20 th century - as that mode of thought was once thought to answer the questions of any possible alternative to the capitalist mode of organisation.
If any anti-capitalist mode of thought required an understanding of the possibility of a better life meaning, obviously, a general sense of disenchantment with whatever is meant to be "real life" , the practical constructions of such utopias have proven to be actual dystopias, in "a will to uniformity and the ideal purity of a perfect system that always had to be imposed by force on its imperfect and reluctant subjects" xi , thus connecting the communist experiments with totalitarianism, a point also made by Fatima Vieira, to whom any flaws in the utopian project are, actually, flaws in the human spirit Thus, one can easily see the complex connections between utopia and dystopia.
Reading extensively through modern philosophy, particularly the ideas of the German Marxist thinker Ernst Bloch about Utopia, Jameson identifies two major axes in utopianism, considering More's work as its actual starting point: namely those of the utopian program and utopian impulse Jameson, Reducing these axes to their simplest drives, the utopian program is present-oriented, and connected - albeit tangentially - to what most utopian thinkers refer to as blueprint usually connected to pre th century literary utopias, although the idea of a readymade plan for a working utopian society has since been denounced by Marx and his successors.
Bloch's and Jameson's utopian program should be seen, thus, as a work in progress, one which would involve, as shown in the diagram below, a rearrangement of the urban locus around the ideas of a revolution sustained by, among other things, praxis and literature. The utopian impulse, on the other hand, is present-to-future-oriented and is concerned in crystallising the utopia not only by maintaining the revolutionary ideals presented in the program but, mainly, preventing the appearance of counterrevolutionary ideas which might jeopardise the utopia.
Interestingly, in contrast to "the city itself as a fundamental form of the Utopian image along with the shape of the village as it reflects the cosmos ", Jameson points out the role of "the individual building as a space of Utopian investment, that monumental part which cannot be the whole and yet attempts to express it" 4. However, the most important element in the analysis of the utopian impulse is undoubtedly the hermeneutical one, involving corporeality, chronology, and collectivity, being the first the most important.
Utopian corporeality is however also a haunting, which invests even the most subordinate and shamefaced products of everyday life, such as aspirins, laxatives and deodorants, organ transplants and plastic surgery, all harboring muted promised of a transfigured body. Modern utopias not unlike their contemporary, 20 th and 21 st century counterparts have, then, drawn heavily on scientific developments in order to guarantee the utopian promise of the mutability towards perfection of the utopian body, a trend perhaps inaugurated by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus , establishing not only the known approximation between utopian fiction and the genre Shelley allegedly initiated of science fiction Freedman 62 but, also, that between Utopia and the post-human body.
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Posthumanist thought is complex and multilayered and, as such, has to be limited to the scope of the argument at hand. Cary Wolfe introduces the complexity of posthumanism by stating that. But it comes after in the sense that posthumanism names a historical moment in which the decentering of the human by its imbrication in technical, medical, informatic, and economic networks is increasingly impossible to ignore, a historical development that points toward the necessity of new theoretical paradigms but also thrusts them on us , a new mode of thought that comes after the cultural repressions and fantasies, the philosophical protocols and evasions, of humanism as a historically specific phenomenon.
Such a turn is, of course, connected to the rise of feminist utopias but the dismantlement of a well-defined concept of what it means to be human is, in essence, the ultimate result of liberal democracies and, also, of Capitalism. Donna J. Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" is probably the first attempt to rethink feminism in the wake of late Capitalism by discussing the merge between the organic - once the realm of the sacred and indivisible - and the technological, which derives from the everlasting need not just to prolong life but to surrender oneself to desire.
The relationship between humans whatever the word may mean nowadays and machines is driven by a constant reinvention of the human. The cyborg, this entity part organic, part inorganic and technological, is the ultimate capitalist commodity since desire never ceases to exist.
Wolfe discusses posthumanism and transhumanism as follows:.
Arguably the best-known inheritor of the "cyborg" strand of posthumanism is what is now being called "transhumanism"-a movement that is dedicated, as the journalist and writer Joel Garreau puts it, to "the enhancement of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capabilities, the elimination of disease and unnecessary suffering, and the dramatic extension of life span. What this network has in common," Garreau continues, "is a belief in the engineered evolution of 'post-humans,' defined as beings 'whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to no longer be unambiguously human by our current standards.
And in this, it has little in common with Haraway's playful, ironic, and ambivalent sensibility in "A Cyborg Manifesto," which is suspicious-to put it mildly-of the capacity of reason to steer, much less optimize, what it hath wrought. The posthuman body, therefore, does not allow any features that can be seen as imperfections.
The "original" human body is essentially inhuman and it has to become post human by embracing late Capitalism and its technologies. This is the trend which can be found in many Anglophone novels deemed utopic, dystopic or speculative fiction since the late s and it can be found in P. James's dystopian novel, 1 Set within the entire year of in and around Oxford, the novel presents a dystopian Britain in a world where male humans have lost their fertility for over twenty-five years.
The novel, part epistolary, opens with the protagonist, Theodore Theo Faron, an historian, writing on his diary about the death of the world's youngest person, Argentine Joseph Ricardo 3 , killed in a pub brawl 3. Theo sees himself as the keeper of historical knowledge which will soon become meaningless and this sets him in a mood of depressive despair. Through his words in the epistolary chapters and his actions elsewhere, this dystopian space is slowly constructed. The government is no longer centred in the monarch but in the political figure of Theo's cousin, Xan Lypiatt, the self-appointed Warden of Britain - an interesting title, as it refers to the carer of a prison block, for instance, and whose power lies exactly on the restraint of individual, bodily actions that may jeopardise the collective project.
An important group in this society is that of the Omegas, members of the generation born in , the last year with recorded births. Omegas are granted a series of social privileges and, interestingly, they seem to display their given social superiority physically:.
The female Omegas have a different beauty, remote, listless, without animation or energy. They have their distinctive style which other women never copy. They wear their hair long and loose, their foreheads bound with braid or ribbon, plain or plaited. Health insurance. Money Deals. The Independent Books.
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