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Dystopia and Utopia. URSULA LE GUIN The purpose of a thought- experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger’s and other physicists, is not to predict.

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Presentation on theme: "Dystopia and Utopia. URSULA LE GUIN The purpose of a thought- experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger’s and other physicists, is not to predict."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dystopia and Utopia

2 URSULA LE GUIN The purpose of a thought- experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger’s and other physicists, is not to predict the future—... but to describe reality, the present world. Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.

3 Utopian Fiction and Time Travel

4 William Morris ( )

5 News from Nowhere (1890) “Sleeping” Time Traveler. William Guest. Utopian or at least socialistic future society An attack on capitalism and empire building Never really quite clear how we got there Still has a love triangle in latter part of story

6 How Far Into the Future? We have been living for a hundred and fifty years, at least, more or less in our present manner, and a tradition or habit of life has been growing on us; and that habit has become a habit of acting on the whole for the best. It is easy for us to live without robbing each other.

7 “Speaking in Negatives” no private property, no big cities, no monetary system, no divorce, no courts, no prisons or wars, no class systems That’s what you mean, isn’t it, by giving me the negative side of your good conditions?”

8 The Time Machine (1895) H.G. Wells. Fabian Socialist. Mad Scientist travels to the FAR future Social criticism of 1890s Victorian England Meets the Eloi And eventually the Morlocks

9 The Races in The Time Machine Eloi Intellectual Weak Refined Vegetarian (mainly fruit) Lack curiosity Lack ambition Can’t fix things Morlocks Brutes Strong “Savage” Carnivores (Eloi is favorite dish) Restless Expanding Working Class

10 The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1973), by Ursula Le Guin Wrote a truly classic Utopian novel, The Dispossessed (1974) Explored gender neutral or androgynous societies in the Hainish Cycle, especially in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) Le Guin's introduction to the 1976 publication of the book identifies Left Hand of Darkness as a "thought experiment" to explore society without men or women, where individuals share the biological and emotional makeup of both sexes Harold Bloom: Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time

11 Omela Also described by negation: As they did without monarchy and slavery, so they also got on without the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police, and the bomb.

12 Why is this Utopia filled with “not” happy people? How can I tell you about the people of Omelas? They were not naive and happy children—though their children were, in fact, happy. They were mature, intelligent, passionate adults whose lives were not wretched. O miracle! but I wish I could describe it better. I wish I could convince you. Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time.

13 Maybe we need to add some sex? Let’s add an orgy, she writes: Surely the beautiful nudes can just wander about, offering themselves like divine soufflés to the hunger of the needy and the rapture of the flesh. Let them join the processions.

14 Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing. there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads, stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded

15 Utopia isn’t free They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.

16 Coming of Age in Omela Means coming to know about the existence of the one suffering child, between ages 8 and 12. The terms are strict and absolute; there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child.

17 Accepting the Reality Principle Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it.

18 Some do not accept: Ponder this. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

19 Consider David Brooks NY Times article on this story “The Child in the Basement” in-the-basement.html?_r=0 in-the-basement.html?_r=0 And yet we don’t actually live according to that moral imperative. Life is filled with tragic trade-offs. In many different venues, the suffering of the few is justified by those trying to deliver the greatest good for the greatest number.

20 Brooks continues... The story compels readers to ask if they are willing to live according to those contracts. Some are not. They walk away from prosperity, and they make some radical commitment. They would rather work toward some inner purity. The rest of us live with the trade-offs. The story reminds us of the inner numbing this creates....

21 Feminist Utopian/Dystopian literature Utopian Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915) All female society Children produce asexually No wars or class society Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) Time traveler from the future One of two possible futures Reproductive rights are key Dystopian Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) Post apocalyptic world Totalitarian Healthy (childbearing) woman’s bodies are heavily controlled Marge Piercy, He She and It (1991) Cyberpunk Corporate dominated world Human/Cyborg romance


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