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Title: Nostalgia as a means of oppression, resistance and submission : a study of dystopian and homecoming novels
Author: Nakamura, A.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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Somewhat paradoxically, nostalgia, a yearning for home or one's past, is characteristic of dystopian fiction, which is a narrative of social criticism commonly with a futuristic setting. This thesis examines the political rhetoric of nostalgia in four dystopian novels: Swastika Night (1937) by Katherine Burdekin, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood and Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is complemented by the analysis of nostalgia in other relevant homecoming novels, such as Orwell's Coming Up for Air (1939), Atwood's Surfacing (1972) and Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (1989); this cross-genre approach highlights how social realism and nostalgia are closely intertwined, enabling a deeper and unique reading of the latter three dystopian novels. Burdekin's dystopia, on the other hand, is particularly important since it delves into the tension and danger inherent in the act of mythmaking, which is often conflated with nostalgia. This thesis aims to demonstrate how reading dystopian novels through the lens of nostalgia can reveal the complexity of the relation between nostalgia and social criticism. Consequently, the study elaborates on various implications of existential homelessness in the modern world, particularly from a psycho-political perspective. Previous studies of traditional dystopian texts tend to criticise nostalgia merely as sentimental and reactionary, since the home they describe is fixated on one particular version of the past, presented as an authentic memory. For instance, in Orwell's _Nineteen Eighty-Four_, Winston's idealisation of his childhood undermines his resistance against the authorities, for it is exclusive in terms of race, class and gender. Yet the concept of nostalgia is not limited to this fetishistic type, which in fact verges on what Jeff Malpas calls "mythophilia". Many critics, by contrast, agree that Atwood's _The Handmaid's Tale_ avoids such conflation between nostalgia and mythophilia by presenting a more self-reflective attitude towards memory. However, such a binary opposition between reactionary and self-reflective nostalgias is reductive, since it disregards the observation (pace Heidegger) that nostalgia is first and foremost a mood rather than an attitude. Overall, the analysis of each dystopian novel reveals multiple dimensions of nostalgia, that is, nostalgia as a means of oppression, resistance and submission; the nature of nostalgia is neither immediately enslaving nor liberating. It is also proposed that there is a subversive potential in the act of mythmaking itself, particularly when the past is utilised as a hypothetical model for imagining a new future, rather than the object of reconstruction.
Supervisor: Simms, Karl ; Seed, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral