All posts tagged utopia

While perusing the web for valid sources for my individual research, I came across a paper by Peter Marks titled Imaging Surveillance: Utopian Visions and Surveillance Studies. This paper focuses on the way surveillance plays a role in dystopian literature, specifically how it presents itself in utopias. He talks about the origination of surveillance in utopias, by examining Thomas Moore’s Utopia. Here, he states, “nothing is private or exclusive, … there are no hiding places outside the home, no spots for secret meetings, and … inhabitants live in full view of each other.” This description comes from Moore’s Utopia, but is reminiscent of literature that capitalizes on “surveillance societies”, as Marks calls them. In his paper, he argues for the large concern for surveillance in utopian literature. In the beginning of the article, he also talks about the power of 1984 in influencing readers’ and society’s view on the surveillance society. He also points to Stanley Cohen, who published on the importance of surveillance as a means of social control in dystopian/utopian literature. He then connects this to Darko Suvin’s idea of cognitive estrangement; he says that these utopian worlds in literature present us with alternative worlds, that catalyze new and creative thought, and in this case specifically on surveillance in our own societies.

My paper focuses on the use of Big Data in dystopias to facilitate oppression, and the most common way it is used is in surveillance. Marks’s paper was useful in addressing this issue because he creates the argument for a common “surveillance society”, in which I can use to identify them in the novels that I am examining. I can then recognize how Big Data is being used in the methods of surveillance in each novel. This then is related back to its usage in our own society, pointing out the possible abuses through the creation of an alternate society, AKA cognitive estrangement. I found the introduction and the section titled “A Case for and Against Utopias” most useful, as this is where Marks makes his general case before analyzing this trend/theme in specific TV shows and books.

This paper will be useful in other projects as well, especially those that focus on technology and oppression. During our conference presentation, I heard many themes associated with oppressive rule, whether it be through surveillance or other means of restriction. This source is worth using, since it links many ideas in the study of dystopian literature to the issue of surveillance. Because of the way Marks refers to well-known scholars in this field, his paper can point you to further readings on similar topics in Dystopian literature.


Works Cited:

Marks, Peter. “Imaging Surveillance: Utopian Visions and Surveillance Studies”. Surveillance & Society,       Vol. 3 No. 2/3, pp. 222-239.

Last week, we discussed dysptopias in detail – various definitions, comparing dystopian novels to other genres, and their usage in Young Adult literature. One topic that was explored in various posts was the idea that one individual’s dystopia could be another’s utopia. Propaganda is defined as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”(1) In the same sense, we’ve seen how propaganda has been used to promote the false ideals of a selective utopia to those who bear the brunt of the dystopian aspects.

One of the best examples of such propaganda is presented during the Reaping in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The scene starts by describing the selection of a “courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing” the District in the Hunger Games. Right from the start, the speech attempts to influence the districts towards the idea that participating in the Games is a prestigious role, that results in wealth and glory. Even the name of the event could be considered an attempt to disguise its gruesome reality as a show of power by the Capitol. They take the children of the districts and force them to fight to the death for entertainment, and there isn’t anything the people can do to stop it. Obviously, this feeble attempt at propaganda has little success among the districts, however it is supplied with a second message by showing the people the ruins of District 13 year after year. This has the effect of reminding the people that the Games were a direct result of the Districts defying the Capitols power during the so-called “Dark Days”. We only see the video played in District 12, however when viewed on a larger scale, it actually could be considered a very clever work of propaganda. For the Districts, it reminds the people of the power of the government, as well as the consequences of defied the established order. On the other hand, for the brainwashed individuals of the Capitol, who have grown up knowing only the glory of the Games and the Capitol, it functions as a tool to convince them that they were in a time of peace and prosperity, as opposed to the Dark Days, which is portrayed as a direct result of the ungracious districts rebelling against the faultless Capitol. We can see how the meaning and implications of the video is different depending on whether it’s viewed by a struggling, fearful citizen of the districts or a pampered member of the Capitol who lives in comfort and prosperity.

The marketing campaigns for The Hunger Games movie actually presents a shockingly similar view to the propaganda in the film itself. Making use of electronic communication more commonly used by the younger generation that made up their target audience, the producers primarily advertised on social media as a cheap, but effectual method of reaching the public. However, due to worries about marketing a battlefield for children as a young adult movie, they carefully didn’t release any footage of the actual Games, as well as avoided any mention of the concept of children killing other children, directing the advertisements towards the fact that “only one wins”. (2) It’s amazing to think that propaganda so similar that is so obvious in the movie, can go unnoticed by the general populace.

Works Cited:
1. “Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda
2. “How ‘Hunger Games’ Built Up Must-See Fever”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/business/media/how-hunger-games-built-up-must-see-fever.html
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3PJ3Du_zDc
Image: http://wp.outbrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/content-marketing-hunger-games-movie.png

 Christian Matthews

The way propaganda is used through media in The Hunger Games is pivotal in the story development and also showing why Panem is a dystopian rather than utopia. Propaganda has been used as a tool for the government to convince people to follow their orders. A primary example was when Effie came to advertise the Hunger Games to potential players she showed on a big screen a false version of how the hunger games were, but once players started being chosen to compete in it, it turned into punishment because of the districts rebelling against the Capitol and so there can be “peace” in the Capitol. It impacts the plot because they started to forcefully choose innocent people to compete in the game like the young girl Rue. Rue impacts the plot tremendously because she isn’t fighting for what the other districts are fighting for, she is fighting for survival and to get out of the hunger games. Another important part of the story that doesn’t get the recognition for propaganda is when the Capitol would go live on the news periodically, so every District could hear. This I found efficient data because the Districts don’t know what going on “outside” of the Hunger Games bounds, they have no choice but to believe what the Capitol speaks about. Overall, The Capitol uses these propagandas to provide the districts with information that they want to provide only.


Before analyzing the role that propaganda can acquire in a dystopian novel, it is first important to define the term. Simply put, propaganda is the transmission of ideas and information, intended to incite a specific response or emotion within the receiver. Therefore, as you could assume, properly placed propaganda can profoundly help or hinder the respective “good” and “bad” characters of a dystopian novel based on its intention.

Candor, a dystopian novel by Pam Bachorz, is centered upon a small town characterized by white picket fences, ivy league students, respect for elders, and most importantly, absence of any disruptive behavior, illegal activity, or issues of any sort. Essentially, it is an ideal town, a “utopia” if you will; this “perfection” is the product of constant music infused with subliminal messages, feeding the townspeople cliches such as “Respectful space in every place” (Bachorz, 60) and “The great are never late” (Bachorz, 20). Infallibly, though, even in a seemingly perfectly crafted town, humans still have the ability for error, leading to a decent amount of propaganda reinforcing the “correct”, as seen by the town’s founder, way to live. For example, when graffiti suddenly appears in the perfect town, a campaign rapidly begins known as TAG, Teens Against Graffiti. TAG, as a unit, then constructs a propaganda-based initiative by painting the sidewalks with phrases reestablishing the importance of a clean, pretty environment in order to immediately halt any opinions the townspeople may have on graffiti, and instead supply the socially appropriate opinion to have.

However, as far as consequences go, what I think is even more important than the propaganda that is being created, is the propaganda that is not. I realize this is an odd way to look at it, but a dystopian society will not necessitate persuasion, through propaganda, unless there is a flaw in the system. In lieu of this, where propaganda is created highlights what is wrong and where it is not created portrays what is, comparatively, right. Through this, the author has an effective way to clearly show their personalized commentary on society. For Candor, there is minimal propaganda pertaining to the importance of education, as most of society tends to acknowledge this as a timeless fact; in contrast, there is a multitude of propaganda relating towards the pleasures of life, notably movies, art, games, etc, portraying it as bad and inferior to other aspects of life. This could then be interpreted as the author making commentary about the regard with which society places imagination and creation of the arts, looking down on them as a lesser way of life.

Essentially, then, the function of propaganda is to realign the dystopia with the blueprint it is designed to follow, as someone, or something, has disrupted its structure. It is important to note that in some circumstances, propaganda can adversely be used to align the dystopia instead with what is desired, shifting the society from the order it previously had, effectively overthrowing the entire system. Through this process then, by looking for the propaganda in a work of dystopian literature, the reader will be able to also find the societal critique the author has hidden in the novel, serving as an effective means of analysis and understanding. Analogous, it is similar to applying a magnifying glass to the work to focus on the relevance of the work, the dystopian elements and perspective.


Works Cited

Bachorz, Pam. Candor. Egmont USA, 2009.

Bachorz, Pam. Candor Book Trailer. Youtube, 9 Jul 2009. www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyXkLnLobho

“Homer Simpson Animated GIF”. Giphy. giphy.com/gifs/season-16-the-simpsons-16x33orieUe6ejxSFxYCXe.

“In this town, you are what you hear”. CrushingCinders: Odd Ramblings of an Obsessed Reader. 5 Mar 2015, www.crushingcinders.com/candorreview.

We started class by having each of you create a “Follow Friday” tweet, where you recommend accounts for other folks in class to follow. Keep working to curate your Twitter timelines so when it comes time to research, you have a wide variety of resources available to you.

Next I walked you through some sample infographics and we talked about what infographics can do well, where some of the ones we looked at fall short, how to keep audience in mind and how to balance images and text. Hopefully some of these examples gave you some ideas and inspiration for your own infographics.

I walked you through some of the key terms from CCUL – it is important that you have a strong grasp on some of the key terminology we are using in this course (utopia, anti-utopia, dystopia, science fiction, cognitive estrangement) as we move forward into some of the assignments. We talked about the historical evolution of dystopia as well as the way the CCUL formulates the overlaps between science fiction, romance and utopia/dystopia. It is important to note that the scholars who wrote these chapters in the CCUL are asserting their arguments and definitions of these terms; you are certainly welcome to disagree with those definitions provided you can support your own argument with reliable sources.

We finished class today with some time spent working on your infographics with your partners. If you were out today you should check in with your partner about this project as soon as possible.


  1. Read CCUL Chapter 8
  2. Read “Burn with Us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games,” Susan Shau Ming Tan, The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 37, Number 1, January 2013, pp. 54-73 (Article). DOI: 10.1353/uni.2013.0002
    • Access the article through the Project MUSE database through the Georgia Tech library.  Use the Library Ask a Librarian feature if you have trouble finding or accessing the database.
    • Be sure to LIVETWEET + tweet a Discussion Question for this article and CCUL 8
  3. Continue reading independent reading selection – you should be at least halfway finished by this point
  4. OPTIONAL: We will be screening The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 on Monday, to discuss on Wednesday (3rd film). If you have not seen Catching Fire (2nd film), you might want to watch it on your own.

We’ll discuss The Hunger Games pt 3 and your excellent discussion questions on Monday


A dystopia is the idea of a society which is too bad in some way to exist, typically due to tyranny and/or government corruption. This is basically a fallen utopia, a society which is too good to be true, and in many cases, dystopia can stem from utopia. Many will argue that utopia will always lead to dystopia, as a society which is “perfect” must be under significant control by some sort of government, and thus corruption and tyranny is implied. However, while this is often the case, I would argue that there isn’t necessarily always this connection between the two.

Examining dystopias from the viewpoint of different genres allows us to see the concept through a new lense, opening up different common themes and perspectives. For example, with romance dystopian novels, you often see recurring themes of sacrifice and silver linings, while with sci-fi dystopian novels, the idea of the dangers of technology is typically prominent. This doesn’t usually change our definition of a dystopia, but it does add to it for different genres and often reshapes the main ideas of the depictions of dystopia.

More recently, there’s been a rise in YA dystopian novels, those that are geared towards young adults. Dystopias in these contexts don’t change in definition, but do become limited in the content that they can offer, often sparing the gory details and explicit nature. However, this can often means we see more in depth character development, and the path to maturity is a theme that’s more predominant throughout the subclass of dystopias.

While there’s quite the range of subcategories throughout the dystopian novels, they all share the basic definition and a variety of similar themes. I’m looking forward to discovering the nuances of each genre as we read and learn more throughout the semester, as more reading into the topic will certainly 

Works Cited

The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Edited by Claeys, Gregory, Cambridge University Press, 2010.



The definition of dystopia is quite complex and it is often confused with those of utopia, science fiction, horror, post-apocalypse, and several others. One online definition is “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.” This is a very negative view of a place. Propaganda is used to control the citizens of the society and the citizens do not know what the world is like outside of their society. There is constant surveillance, and the citizens are to conform to uniform expectations where individuality is frowned upon.

While dystopias and utopias are complete opposite, the perspective taken on a society can change whether something is categorized as a dystopia or a utopia. A utopia is “an imaginary and indefinitely remote place; a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.” For the ruler or government in charge of the place, the society can seem like a perfect and ideal place, a utopia. The citizens, on the other hand can be poor, miserable, and living a harsh life and view their society as a dystopia.

Dystopias are often confused with other genres. One big misunderstanding is that dystopias and science fiction are often confused with one another. In many dystopian societies there is advanced scientific technology and they are usually set in the future so it is easily confused as being a work of science fiction. Even in my experience with the dystopias that I have read, including The Hunger Games, and The Divergent series, they all included some kind of science fiction aspect.

Dystopias are often combined with the YA genre, which creates a more relatable storyline, since it does not limit the audience to a certain age group. YA novels usually include a protagonist in their age range who experiences similar things that a young adult would, including first love, family relations, and competitions. Older people can also relate to these stories, since they were young at one point in their lives. YA dystopia makes the problems relatable to a large audience in an easy to read format for everyone to enjoy.

“Utopia.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopia.
“Dystopia.” English Oxford Living Dictionaries, English Oxford Living Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dystopia.
“Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.” ReadWriteThink. NCTE/IRA, 2006, http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson926/DefinitionCharacteristics.pdf.

From my perspective, a utopia is a setting where everyone is equal. A place where everything is “perfect.” When I was younger, I used to be excited thinking that this was achievable. However, as I started growing up, each story I read about a utopia had one thing in common; they never worked out. For example, in the book The Giver, Everything started off well, but at the end the perfect society failed. Additionally, in a utopia, someone has to be in control. There has to be a leader or an oligarchy that is behind the scenes to make sure everyone is in their right place. Also, they have to control what the people know to make sure that one person is not smarter than the next. The moment that happens, whoever is in control automatically, makes him/herself better off than the population which makes the utopia “not perfect.” For example, in the movie The Divergent, everyone was equal, but there was a government that made sure there were rules and that the people abided by it. Consequently, just like The Giver, The society failed.

Generally, I like when the idea of a Utopia is combined with action, because it often physically depicts how the people will rebel against the government. Action has always been one of my favorite genres, so adding the utopian idea makes the whole concept that more interesting for me. As far as the Young Adult genre, it changes the way utopian societies are portrayed. As a young adult, I look for more a thrill when reading. So if I was an author, if I wanted to write a book about utopias for young adults, I would make it more fun and interesting to attract my audience. A book like The Hunger Games is a great example of a piece of literature that best fits a young adult.

How do you define dystopia (or other dystopia term: utopia, anti-utopia)? How does combining dystopia with another genre (sci-fi, romance, apocalypse) affect your definition? How does combining dystopia with Young Adult literature (YA) change the genre? You may use examples from class books or your own research book and to take our class discussion in an original or more in-depth direction.


There are two basic words I would use to characterize a dystopia: futuristic and bad. This is just a surface-level definition, but to me, dystopias take place in a future worse than our present times, and almost all feature an oppressive/tyrannical government. It is linguistically the opposite of a utopia, which the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature defines as an, “imaginary paradisiacal places, it has also been used to refer to a particular kind of narrative, which became known as utopian literature” (Claeys 4). But, while the setting of the books mostly follow the guidelines I have illustrated above, dystopias often have the theme of revolution and hope in overcoming seemingly impossible odds. In the Hunger Games movie, we hear President Snow remark that, “Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear.” Similarly, this is very strongly the main theme in my other favorite dystopian series, as a character remarks, “I will put my trust in hope once more, and perhaps this time, it will be enough” (Kagawa 335).

However, The Immortal Rules might be categorized in the post-apocalyptic genre along with dystopian. While these don’t have to be mutually exclusive (see: The Hunger Games), not all books that take place after an apocalypse are necessarily dystopian. The Immortal Rules takes place after a devastating plague eradicates much of humanity and, after mutating, turns the rest of its victims into mad, rabid vampires. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity mostly lives in cities ruled by non-rabid vampires who require tithes of blood in exchange for the scarce food left in the world, and they will take your blood even if you are on death’s door. They rule with an iron fist. The Lunar Chronicles is a sci-fi series that takes place in a less ravaged future, but it is on the brink of dystopia as a plague has arisen in the population. When these books deviate more from the dystopia genre (i.e. The Lunar Chronicles) it may lose some of those themes of oppression and hope to overcome.

Young adult is a genre full of tropes. Examples include the best friend group against the world, insta-love, The Chosen One, the speshul snowflake, the Mary Sue, and, of course, the much reviled and yet omnipresent love triangle. Of course, not every book has all of these (and a rare few have none!), but a YA book will have at least one. If an author chooses to write a YA dystopia, he or she faces an uphill battle in the fight to be recognized as a genuine, profound author, because many view YA literature as a trope-filled, unnecessarily light genre only able to be consumed by airheaded teens (maybe a bit dramatic, but as a YA lover, I’m frustrated). Making the protagonist a teenager also oftentimes requires the author to put their characters on a journey of self-discovery as they come of age.


(After finding so many funny YA dystopia memes, I do believe I will post one with all of my blogs)


Works Cited

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

The Hunger Games. Directed by Gary Ross, performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson, Lionsgate, 2012.

Kagawa, Julie. The Eternity Cure. Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2013. Print.


Utopia, the ultimate society, and the impossible dream.

Dystopia, the harsh reality, and the inevitable outcome.

The origins for these terms go all the way back to the 1500s when Sir Thomas More wrote a book entitled Utopia, and as time went on, the concepts of utopian societies and its opposite, dystopian societies,  were found more commonly in the written world. Specifically in the past few decades, a relatively new genre has surfaced: Young Adult Dystopian Novels. A typical book in this genre will involve an attempt at creating a utopian society only to have it fall apart with the underlying reason being humanity’s own failings. This genre is centered around the idea that utopian societies are not in fact utopian but instead dystopian.

A great example of this genre is shown in the book series The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. In these books, the people of the Capitol are shown to be living the perfect life, the utopian life, whereas everyone else in the nation of Panem, specifically those living in the 12 districts, see life as a dystopia. The concept of attempting to create a utopia is clearly present in the novel; however, the society’s own faults end up leading to its downfall. Because of the oppression of the districts, the unfair treatment the districts receive, and the harsh punishment for an outdated crime, the districts unite against the Capitol to overthrow the society which they see as a means to end the dystopia that they are living in under the Capitol’s rule.

Image result for hunger games books

In reading many dystopian novels including The Hunger Games, I have come to the conclusion that most if not all dystopian novels have roots in both history and society today. Many dystopian novels address inequalities based on who you are and where you were born, or serve as a warning to those who have obtained power through unjust means and use it for unlawful purposes.

Image result for ethics

The genre of YA Dystopian novels in particular seems to be a means of educating the youth of today on the proper ethics of society without directly stating what is right or what is wrong, but instead relating experiences from their own lives (from what they’ve seen or heard) to what they have read and to apply it to their lives as they grow older and become a functioning part of society.

Image result for ethics

This concept might not be the main reason people enjoy reading dystopian literature, but it could have contributed to the recent explosion of YA Dystopian Literature as a genre, and hopefully to a society that is closer to a true utopia in the future.