Utopia and Dystopia English IV: Honors Mr. Gilliand
Deﬁning our terms Expressed most simply, a utopia is a perfect place.Conversely, a dystopia is a bad place.
It’s all Greek to me. Dys - a preﬁx from Greek meaning bad, harsh, wrong; ill; hard to, difﬁcult at; slow of; disordered. Eu - a preﬁx from Greek meaning good. Ou - a preﬁx from Greek meaning not. Topia - a root from Greek meaning place - originally a ﬁeld. Dystopia - literally, a bad place, often used as a literary device in which authors warn readers of the dangers of societys present course if continued in the future. A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. Eutopia/Utopia - an ideal place that does not exist in reality. A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions (From Greek outopia meaning no place and eutopia meaning good place.)
Modern OriginSir Thomas MoreWrote “Utopia” in Latin in 1516The word is derived from the Greek words -ou, "not", and -topos"place"; hence Outopia means "no-place".In early modern English, Utopia was spelled "Eutopie”, becauseof confusion with the preﬁx -eu, “good”, which is pronounced thesame as -ou in English.The implication of More’s original meaning, “no-place”, is thatoutopia is unattainable.Consequently, our word dystopia is ﬂawed in that it was createdto contrast a word whose original meaning has been lost.
Dystopian ControlsMost dystopian works present a world in whichoppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfectsociety are maintained through one or more of thefollowing types of controls:
Dystopian ControlsCorporate control: One or more large corporationscontrol society through products, advertising, and/orthe media. Examples include Minority Report andRunning Man.
Dystopian ControlsBureaucratic control: Society is controlled by amindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape,relentless regulations, and incompetent governmentofﬁcials. Examples in ﬁlm include Brazil.
Dystopian ControlsTechnological control: Society is controlled bytechnology—through computers, robots, and/orscientiﬁc means. Examples include The Matrix, TheTerminator, and I, Robot.
Dystopian ControlsPhilosophical/religious control: Society is controlledby philosophical or religious ideology often enforcedthrough a dictatorship or theocratic government.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction A selectively told back story of a war, revolution, uprising, spike in overpopulation, natural disaster or some other climatic event which resulted in dramatic changes to society
Traits of Dystopian Fiction A standard of living among the lower and middle class that is generally poorer than in the contemporary society. This is not always the case.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction A protagonist who questions the society.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction The dystopian protagonist often feels trapped and is struggling to escape; questions the existing social and political systems; believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives; helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction Necessarily, if it is based on our world, a shift of emphasis of control to corporations, autocratic cliques or bureaucracies.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction Because dystopian literature takes place in the future, it often features technology more advanced than that of the contemporary society. Usually, the advanced technology comparable to or more primitive than what we have today.
Traits of Dystopian Fiction For the reader to engage with it, dystopian ﬁction typically has one other trait: familiarity. It is not enough to show people living in a society that seems pleasant. The society must have echoes of today, of the reader’s own experience. If the reader can identify the patterns or trends that would lead to the dystopia, it becomes a more involving and effective experience. Authors can use a dystopia effectively to highlight their own concerns about societal trends
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