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My source is an article called ‘Totalitarianism and Dystopian Literature: A Review’, written by Josh Zuckerman ’18 for a journal called ‘The Princeton Tory’. It talks about how dystopias are made by so much more than just a dictatorship and about five other frequently occurring themes in dystopias that are used to keep even the simplest of civil liberties from citizens. It also addresses the fact that the governments in all dystopias need not be ‘regarded as malign entities hell-bent on the destruction of freedom and the infliction of suffering’ by the people under them. Nevertheless, these are totalitarian as they ‘prevent the exercise of free will and political dissidence’.
The five themes that the article focuses on are – Government Monopoly of Information, The Rewriting of History, Equality as the Primary Motivating Agent of Governmental Actions, The Loss of Individual Identity and The Erosion of Identity. It goes into different examples from popular YA Dystopias to show how these themes are effective in creating a ‘perpetual state of confusion’ for the people in the dystopia. It ends by addressing the concern that minimized versions of these themes have always existed and continue to do so in our own society. Reading exaggerated versions of our own truths brings home the limits that we as humankind should always be aware and mindful of.
This was the article that first brought to my mind the thought of information as an effective weapon. It is a good read to understand the importance of various strategies that dystopian governments use while also realizing how big a role deception plays in any dystopian fiction. I also realized the importance of studying and knowing history, absent of which, the author emphasizes, ‘society would experience a profound moral and cultural decadence.’ As a whole, the article addresses various moral dilemmas that our society faces today but how taking the direction that we are inclining towards now could have disastrous results.
Zuckerman, Josh. “Totalitarianism and Dystopian Literature: A Review.” The Princeton Tory, 23 Nov. 2014, theprincetontory.com/main/totalitarianism-and-dystopian-literature-a-review/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.
This course is based around young adult dystopian literature, and how over the years, its origin as a utopia has changed and evolved into bestselling books, comics, and even movies. For me, my primary focus of research is the role that social taboos, which can include (but are not limited to) sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, abuse, and mental health, in young adult literature; specifically, in young adult dystopian novels. Narrowing down even further, I decided to pay close attention to the role that the social taboo of mental health (specifically, teenage suicide and depression) plays in young adult dystopian literature; or rather, the lack of role it plays thereof. In order to do this, however, its important to understand why dystopian literature is so appealing to young adults in the first place.
The source I’m highlighting is an analysis published Virginia Tech in the Alan Review (see Works Cited). Essentially, the researchers determined what themes could be appealing to young adult dystopian readers, and divided them into several categories including (but not limited to) platonic relationships, media manipulation, limited freedom, pressure to conform, etc. Then, they devised a list of dystopian novels that were published in 2000 or later and were considerably popular and best-selling, and determined the common themes that each of these novels had with each other. After having a list of themes with supporting novelistic evidence, each theme was analyzed even further with recurring trends in plots and twists of the respective novels.
The review established the role that adolescent development plays, whether it is isolation, the brink of adulthood, or relationships (platonic and romantic). Although the biggest takeaway from the review was to advocate for the necessity of young adult dystopian literature in the classroom, it makes a sound argument with a good indication of what themes, in fact, classify a piece of literature as not only dystopian, but successfully dystopian. For me, the purpose of this article was to support the fact that popular dystopian novels do not discuss mental health as a recurring theme, despite the role it plays in teenage lives on a regular basis. However, for those looking at the rise in the appeal of dystopian literature, or the role that technology or romance play as recurring themes in dystopian literature, this can prove to be an equally valuable and useful source.
Scholes, Justin, and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” Scholarly Communication Department, Research & Informatics, Virginia Tech Libraries, Scholarly Communication, Virginia Tech University Libraries, scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.
One article that I found particularly helpful for my research, which will also be beneficial for others in the class, focuses on providing information about the risks of cosmetic surgeries to correct unattractive facial features. Diana Zuckerman wishes to examine risks associated with these types of surgeries to inform teens and young women in order to assist them in making their decisions, realizing that it’s difficult to determine when surguries cross the line. She begins the article by describing plastic surgery in developing teens, moves on to the risks involved with it, and then addresses possible solutions, all the while proving her point that this topic of research needs more time and energy to ensure that we aren’t ruining young girls’ lives.
65,000. To fix noses, lift breasts, perform tummy tucks, and go through with liposuction, 65,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 sought and received cosmetic surgery, many of whom did not make informed decisions (Zuckerman). Zuckerman points out that girls usually gain weight between 18 and 21 years old, so most girls who get surgery may need to get it again as their bodies change. Not only does she worry that teens don’t fully comprehend the risks involved, but the FDA has concerns about silicone gel breast implants and how young women don’t know all the information. As Zuckerman explains the risks involved with plastic surgery, she points out that “most women who get breast implants have at least one serious complication within the first three years” (Zuckerman). Many things can go wrong, and if something does, the patient will most likely have to go through surgery again. Body dysmorphic disorder is also prevalent among women seeking surgery, which holds a psychological risk. Zuckerman wants young women to realize what they’re actually about to go through and to understand the full scope.
Not only are the physical and psychological risks associated with breast implants, but monetary risks exist as well. Cosmetic surgery is very expensive, and if a complication exists, a lot of women may not be able to pay for it. Zuckerman also explains the risks associated with liposuction. Most people don’t realize that there can be “infection, damage to skin, nerves or vital organs…or blood clots” that can lead to death (Zuckerman). Teens will most likely not pay attention to the risks associated with these surgeries, which is a problem since the media and “public has an inflated sense of the benefits” (Zuckerman). Overall, research is lacking in results, but the media is influencing young women on this issue, which leads to uninformed decisions.
In order to prevent these decisions from occurring, Zuckerman proposes a couple options. Effective screening is a great way to determine if a patient is ready and mature enough to transform her body. Also, research is very important in this area since studies found that body images of teens improves regardless of going through plastic surgery or not (Zuckerman). Zuckerman feels that there is not enough long-term research for teens and their parents to make informed decision about cosmetic surgery.
This article is very important to my research because it showcases that we could be encouraging uninformed decisions about plastic surgery and that benefits of cosmetic surgery are inflated, just like in the novel Uglies. Many of the presentations focused on what dystopias can teach us about our society, and this article is a great example of what Uglies teaches us about our fears and how this benefits our society. We as a society are not focusing on the major problems associated with cosmetic surgery, and Zuckerman and I both realize that this needs to be changed.
Zuckerman, Diana. “Teens and Cosmetic Surgery.” Our Bodies Ourselves, 6 May 2016, www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/teens-cosmetic-surgery/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.
This article argues that America today is comparable to the dystopian classic, 1984 by George Orwell. Seeing as 1984 was a futuristic dystopia at the time, it showcased several “new” technologies that are looking awfully familiar today.
In 1984, there were large telescreens capable of showing images and propaganda to the people, which didn’t exist when Orwell wrote it. This is mirrored by the screens Americans today see everywhere they go, from telephones to cell phones, computer screens and the large signs displaying colorful images everywhere we go.
Today, it cannot be argued against that people are under almost constant surveillance. Given, this data collected from our phones, computers, and digital lives goes largely unused, to our knowledge, but what happens to the information collected to us can change as quickly as the Administration. They also argue for the point by bringing up the Edward Snowden case in which Snowden illegally leaked thousands of classified documents to tell the people how much information is actually recorded about their lives by their own government and what was being done with that information. .
The “Endless War” , that is, the war of the central government of 1984, Oceania, against either Eurasia or Eastasia. These two countries were named interchangeably as the enemy, sometimes, one of them being an ally. This was used as a distraction tactic to enslave the people. This too, is similar to the going ons of America today. Since 9/11 the average American has learned to hate and fear their own enemy, the dreaded “ill defined enemy.”
The speculation is that this war is meant to distract and enrage citizens so they are too caught up and fired up to notice the problems going on at home.
I recommend this article for some of our researchers who are talking about how technology in dystopias mirrors the reality of today.
Beale, Lewis. “We’re Living ‘1984’ Today.” CNN, 3 Aug. 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/08/03/opinion/beale-1984-now/. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
One of the most important sources in my research is a book by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. This book identifies many various uses of propaganda throughout history and successfully attempts to categorize something that until this book’s publication had no precedent for its organization. This is a great source for anyone looking into government control of the public’s opinions, propaganda in general, acts of rebellion, or topics about fake news. However, attempting to tell you about the entire book in around 500 words would be an impossible feat, so I will instead focus on the first chapter which is all about the characteristics of propaganda.
The first chapter of this book is split into three parts: external characteristics, internal characteristics, and categorization of propaganda. The first part, or the external focus of propaganda, tells all about how propaganda is mainly concerned with shaping an individual psychologically by essentially creating beliefs on a certain topic through imperceptible techniques such as subliminal messaging and continuous repetition. It goes on to talk about how the constant presence of messages about a certain opinion or concepts eventually gain presence in the minds of individuals which causes propaganda to be such an effective way of getting others to agree with your point of view on an idea even though they might not have agreed with you at first.
The second part of this chapter focuses on internal characteristics of propaganda. This section of the book is written more for the creators of propaganda as it demonstrates what they need to know in order to launch a successful propaganda campaign. It talks all about understanding the environment that surrounds the “propagandist” and how those who create propaganda shouldn’t attempt to create something out of nothing, but use the ideals and beliefs already existing in a certain part of society to their advantage by linking the public’s views and beliefs to their own.
The third part of this chapter is the most interesting part to me as it expands on the categories of propaganda and the individual goals of each type of it. Ellul talks about his eight categories for propaganda including political propaganda where the focus is on achieving political gains (kind of self-explanatory), sociological propaganda where the goal is to as Ellul puts it, “the presentation of an ideology by means of sociological context.” He also discusses agitation propaganda which is essentially propaganda of hatred (example would be Nazi propaganda of the Jews in WW2) and integration propaganda which is propaganda meant to unify or stabilize a country or group of people. Moreover, he discusses vertical propaganda and horizontal propaganda. Vertical propaganda is essentially the elevating of a leader above the masses (as shown by propaganda in North Korea or China) where horizontal propaganda is used to unify people as equals in a community where everyone is treated with fairness and equality. Lastly, he talks about irrational and rational propaganda. Ellul specifies how irrational propaganda is essentially the use of myths or symbols to appeal to emotions whereas rational propaganda uses facts and statistics to appeal to emotions.
This source has greatly helped be develop my own ideas behind propaganda and helped me further my research greatly by providing a great starting point. It has allowed me to see case studies in many novels that I have read in class and use a proven classification of propaganda techniques to better explain the reasoning behind each example of propaganda that I find in my research.
I stumbled across an article written by Joshua Garrison for the American Educational History Journal that I think could be incredibly useful for many people’s papers. This article surrounds the topic of how education is portrayed and utilized in dystopias, and compares this with how people view eduction in the “real” world.
The article opens with a real Presidential speech about school, and discusses the negative backlash to the speech. This opens up the article into a further discussion about the role of education in politics, and different political views on, or fears of, public education. The article talks briefly about the definition of dystopia, and how it essentially represents the writer’s “worst fears”. Garrison mentions how both political parties employ “dystopian imagery” to push their own agendas, and bring down the other side. Next, Garrison names several dystopian novels, more or less in chronological order starting in the 1800s and moving to present day, and describes the role of education in each one. He compares and contrasts the novels, and explains how the educational set-up in each one was inspired by real life events, such as the rise of the Ford-style Model-T industrial line, where everyone works as a part of a larger system in a pre-determined group. Though each novel is different, Garrison ultimately argues that every author saw children’s schooling in their dystopia as a way to impose control. Garrison concludes with some examples from various novels, where the kid is the “corrupt” one, brainwashed by society, and the parent is the one who recognizes he or she is in a dystopia. I thought this was an interesting contrast to our class, where most protagonists are still school-aged.
The author argues that the role of education, both in real life and in dystopian novels, is a political tool. In dystopias, education is used to brainwash children into believing false statements, or into believing a specific way the world “works”. In real life, Garrison argues, the role and implementation of public education is a controversial topic because both sides of the political spectrum fear the other side will promote their ideas. Thus, modern day dystopias can be created, because the “worst fears” of a certain political group will come true with the success of another group. Ultimately, Garrison’s point is that the role of public education in “real life” is very complicated, as some argue it is the key to equality and democracy, while others argue it strips the rights and freedoms of citizens. This constant debate and fear of role of education being in the wrong hands is mirrored in several best-selling dystopias.
Garrison makes a clear and fair argument since he never takes a political stance on public education, or sides with a political party. The article gives evidence in form of direct quotes from people of varying political identity, but never deems one as right or wrong.
Black Mirror is a Netflix series with non sequential episodes. In other words, each episode is totally unique in setting, plot, and characters. You can watch the episodes in any order and not be negatively affected. Because of this, Black Mirror can make a multitude of commentaries on the human condition and it’s relation to technology in a variety of ways in a small number of episodes. While each episode explores the unanticipated effects of a new or existing technology on humans, each episode is unique in the way it achieves this.
It is a great show for entertainment purposes because it really twists your mind to look at our world in a different way. Some episodes such as s1e1 do this with subtle changes to our current world. Other episodes are drastically different. Regardless of the episodes differences, you can see trends among all dystopias.
The very first episode seems to be in a world portrayed to be exactly like ours. New technologies that have not been invented yet are not present at all. The basic plot is that a English princess is kidnapped and the captor does not offer a cash ransom. Instead, he says the prime minister has to have sex with a pig on live television. The key quote from this episode is the response when the prime minister asks “What is our move? What does the playbook say?” The response is “there is no play book.” The main point being made here is that social media and media in general has a relatively new role in politics. However, despite it being new, it has an extremely high amount of power. It is a new force that when in the wrong hands is impossible to prepare against. It is dangerous.
While the pilot includes no characters or actors in the following episodes, it is the perfect introduction to the series because it shows that a simple twist can point out a major potential danger in a technology advance society like ours. Furthermore, most of the following episodes are even more technologically advanced to show us the unpredictable affects of new technology. While some of the technology being viewed seems unachievable, it is still scary to watch because we know that the pace of our technological advancement far exceeds the pace of the policy regarding it. Simply put, there are consequences when we make things we do not know how to deal and live with it
How have divisions in society transformed over time? The answer is complex and the following book is an essential research in being able to compare contemporary society to dystopian society. This book, Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, is an excellent resource in addressing the complexity of social theory today. In my research, I focused on Chapter 3, entitled Post-feminism, which defines the post-feminist theory and how it differs immensely from previous feminist thought and theories. Post-feminism is defined as the notion of women having power, but not losing their “femininity”, which stems from the idea feminists lose femininity. In literature, as in dystopias, this provides “a critique of previous assumptions of the self, the social, the political, history, the text, knowledge, and ‘the West’”(Browning, 65). I found this theory and source especially useful and interesting in investigating feminist elements in recent dystopian literature.
This chapter uses concrete examples of post-feminist theory in literature and in television. One key piece used in supporting their claim is that of the series Star Trek: Voyager, which is set in the twenty-fourth century and explores the role of a post-feminist woman as starship captain. Tough leadership and courage characterize protagonist Janeway, though she doesn’t lose her “femininity” in this role, highlighting the post-feminist depiction of this character.
This chapter is a useful tool in identifying the social context in recent years of feminism, and its portrayal in literature. In my project, I am using this to argue the content and focus of women’s roles and depiction in this post-feminism period. Novels like my independent reading book The Selection, feature strong independent female leads, who are still able to embrace their femininity and stand up for female power and fight oppression, while not losing this aspect of themselves, a key factor in the post-feminist period.
Another useful chapter in this book include Chapter 33, entitled Social inequalities: coming to terms with complexity. This section argues that social divisions such as “class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, and sexual orientation [are] intertwined to produce multifaceted and intricate forms of social hierarchy”(Browning, 478). This section would be useful for anyone curious about the divisions and inequalities within a society and comparing that to their independent reading novel or other dystopian societies.
Browning, Gary K., Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present. London, Sage, 2000.
“Darkness Too Visible” by Meghan Cox Gurdon is an article that addresses the effects of dark content featured in Young Adult novels. Gurdon begins the article by providing a real life example of a concerned parent. The mother in this situation fears the extremely violent and dark content in a large majority of the books targeted towards her daughter’s age group. Gurdon then goes on to discuss how Young Adult novels are crude. She mentions that life is often portrayed with misery and depression, and she questions the effects of these themes on the reader. She argues that while reading a book may not necessarily make teens depressed, it certainly will have some effect on their brains. Gurdon then provides specific examples of YA novels with dark storylines. She uses several examples over time to demonstrate how the books have become more and more violent and dark over time. Gurdon then briefly discusses the argument that books such as these should not be banned. Her reasoning is that the readers could find comfort in these storylines if they have gone through something similar. However, her counterargument is that the publication of such novels normalizes dark behavior. She also discusses the fact that profanity in such storylines has been normalized over the years. She closes the article by discussing several points about book censorship and how it affects readers. She states that many librarians are against censorship as young adults should have the freedom to decide what to read.
This source provides much needed support to my argument. The author provides both a counter argument and support to my thesis. My research is about the effects of banned books and censorship on young adult readers, specifically banned dystopian novels. Dystopian novels frequently contain dark content that parents do not approve of for their children to read. I can use this source to discuss parental concerns, and also discuss the benefits they believe censorship has. In addition, I can use the material about why censorship is bad in my argument.
Gurdon, Megan Cox. “Darkness Too Visible.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 4 June 2011. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303657404576357622592697038