Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Mark N. Leiderman
Laura Olson Osterman
Warren F. Motte
Eric C. White
This dissertation examines how the new modality of science fiction—post-utopia—incorporates two seemingly opposite discourses, utopian and dystopian, and how an oscillation between these discourses is manifested in the twentieth/twenty-first century American and Russian science fiction. While the simultaneous presence and vacillation between the utopian and dystopian discourses is evident in all the texts, some gravitate more toward the utopian pole, while others favor the dystopian. What my analysis reveals is that American novels exhibit a predisposition towards utopian visions, while their Russian counterparts largely give preference to the dystopian ones.
Specifically, in chapter two, which focuses on the analysis of the American steampunk novel The Difference Engine (1990) by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and the Russian text The Blizzard (2010) by Vladimir Sorokin, we are presented with two opposing views on the representation of history: one (utopian), exhibited by the American narrative, envisions history as flexible, while the other (dystopian), exemplified by the Russian text, sees history as unable to receive change. Chapter three, by analyzing the cyberpunk genre through William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) and the Russian texts by Victor Pelevin Homo Zapiens (1999), S.N.U.F.F. (2011) and Anna Starobinets’s The Living (2012), demonstrates contrasting attitudes toward the conception of cyberspace. While Gibson, highlighting the detrimental effects of the emerging cybertechnologies, nonetheless acknowledges the utopianism of the technological progress, Pelevin and Starobinets primarily present technology as oppressive means for human manipulation. In chapter four, which discusses the exemplars of the post-apocalyptic genre—Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) as an American representative, and Georgii Daneliia’s Kin-Dza-Dza! (1986) and Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 (2005) as its Russian counterparts—dichotomous views on the dialectic of the sacred and the profane are exposed. Utopianism here is exemplified through Miller’s novel, which roots its post-apocalyptic setting in a revived mythical time, hoping to attain the sacred. Russian narratives, by portraying an evident disenchantment with the sacred, envision their “after the end” scenarios in a mostly dystopian light. Overall, this dissertation proposes that post-utopian SF reflects the larger tendencies in the postmodernist movement, which has been experiencing a revival of modernist ideals.
Gerhard, Julia, "Post-Utopian Science Fiction in Postmodern American and Russian Literatures" (2018). Comparative Literature Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 50.