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Title: Violence and dystopia : mimesis and sacrifice in contemporary Western dystopian narratives
Author: Cojocaru, Daniel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2713 4359
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Violence and Dystopia is a critical examination of imitative desire, scapegoating and sacrifice in selected contemporary Western dystopian narratives through the lens of René Girard’s mimetic theory. The first chapter offers an overview of the history of Western utopia/dystopia with a special emphasis on the problem of conflictive mimesis and scapegoating violence, and a critical introduction to Girard’s theory. The second chapter is devoted to J.G. Ballard’s seminal novel Crash (1973). It is argued that the car crash functions as a metaphor for conflictive mimetic desire and leads to a quasi-sacrificial crisis as defined by Girard for archaic religion. The attempt of the medieval propheta-figure to resolve the crisis through violence fails and leads to potential violence without end. The third chapter focuses on the psychogeographical writings of Iain Sinclair. Walking the streets of London he represents the excluded underside of the world of Ballardian speed. The walking subject is portrayed in terms of the expelled victim of Girardian theory. The fourth chapter considers violent crowds as portrayed by Ballard’s late fiction, the writings of Stewart Home and David Peace’s GB84 (2004). In accordance with Girard’s hypothesis, the discussed narratives reveal the failure of scapegoat expulsion to restore peace to the potentially self-destructive violent crowds. The fifth chapter examines the post-apocalyptic environments resulting from failed scapegoat expulsion and mimetic conflict out of control, as portrayed in Sinclair’s Radon Daughters (1994), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003) and Will Self’s The Book of Dave (2006). In conclusion it will become evident that Girard’s theory forms an indispensable analytical tool uncovering the pivotal themes of imitation and scapegoating in the discussed narratives: themes largely ignored in current scholarship on dystopia and secondary literature on the focussed authors.
Supervisor: Cunningham, Valentine Sponsor: Scatchered European ; Swiss National Science Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature