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Title: Before Utopia : the function of sacrifice in dystopian narratives
Author: Varsamopoulou, Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 1697
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2010
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The aim of this study is to illustrate the ways in which the practice and logic of sacrifice in dystopian narratives is anti-utopian. There is a dearth of research on the dystopian fiction, very little which investigates ethical issues and none which consider sacrificial ethics. In the first half of the thesis, the concept of dystopia is delineated against definitions of utopia, concrete utopia and utopian literature. In the second theoretical chapter, major and minor theories of sacrifice are examined for their normative bias in order to question their function in practice. Two important literary examples are read in light of a cross section of sacrifice and utopia: the influential story of Isaac's near sacrifice by Abraham in Genesis 22, and Ursule Molinaro's The New Moon with the Old Moon in her Arms, a literary depiction of the ancient Greek sacrificial ritual of the 'pharmakos'. The works chosen are canonical examples of the genre and in each a different aspect of sacrifice is foregrounded. In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the structure of sacrifice and the rigid hierarchy it imposes engenders perpetual violence. In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, women's sacrifice of reproductive freedom renders them commodities which cannot sustain friendships. In Octavia Butler's Kindred, the scapegoating of women slaves prevents vertical relationships as a result of the severing of mothers from their offspring. In the final chapter, Ursule Le Guin's 'The Ones who Walk Away from Ornelas' and Lois Lowry's The Giver foreground the cost of utopia based on a sacrificial ethics and problematises the relationship between self and community. The questions of genre, gender, and ethics intersect at the anti-utopian function sacrifice performs in the totalitarian societies foregrounded in the various manifestations of dystopian fictional worlds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General)