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Title: Architects of impurity : a study of the political imagination in contemporary fantastic fiction
Author: Williams, Alun Rhys
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 0850
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis investigates the limitations and capacities of genres of the fantastic in their ability to represent the “break” between agency and structure, specifically the transformation of the former into the latter on the scale of radical social and political change. The transformation of utopian impulse to utopian programme is traditionally understood to present a representational impossibility—a “break”—and to require a shift into a less rigorous fantastic or magical representational register. This thesis considers this apparent impossibility to be a product of an ontology of atomised individualism that informs texts from mainstream Hollywood blockbusters to more putatively radical works of literature. It argues that these representations of agency, conceptually limited to individual action, occlude the reality and possibility of communal political agency. This thesis takes contemporary neoliberalism’s transformation of social structures and subjectivities to be driving this specific limiting effect on the ability to imagine alternative patterns of social relations and on the scope and potential of the imagination as such. Beginning with the development of a new political theoretical approach to fantastic literature, this thesis seeks to identify, through a series of close readings, the mechanisms by which this ideological work is performed by sf and fantasy texts, and then seeks to identify alternative representational techniques and strategies that overcome these limitations, allowing the societal imagination to think communal political agency, and move beyond the imaginative confines of the neoliberal horizon. Culminating in the work of China Miéville, this thesis finds that the effort to represent the “break” requires techniques and tropes taken from various genres, in order to capture the becoming—the producing and being-produced—of the world, of social structures, of communities and of subjectivities. The resulting literature has the potential to recruit the reader into occupying a position of radical, critical subjectivity—one which not only understands the malleable, constructed nature of social reality, but understands their own part in its reproduction, and the potential they wield, along with others, to alter it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature