Monday, 17 September 2012

Research - Utopia and dystopia in Literature and Escapism

The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguably are by definition a type of speculative fiction.
More than 400 utopian works were published prior to the year 1900 in the English language alone, with more than a thousand others during the twentieth century.


Examples of Utopianism

Arcadia, e.g. in Sir Philip Sidney's prose romance The Old Arcadia (1580). Originally a region in the Peloponnesus, Arcadia became a synonym for any rural area that serves as a pastoral setting, as a locus amoenus ("delightful place"):
A pastoral lifestyle (see pastoralism) is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, typically for urban audiences. A pastoral is a work of this genre.
An alternative word for pastoral as a genre, both in adjectival and noun form, is bucolic, from the Greek βουκόλος, meaning a cowherd.
The typical imagery we see when we imagine a place that’s plentiful and green and makes me relate it to the nature theme.

                                        The Land of Cockaigne by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Land of Cockaigne
The Land of Cockaigne (also Cockaygne, Cokaygne), was
an imaginary land of idleness and luxury, famous in medieval story, and the subject of more than one poem, one of which, an early translation of a 13th-century French work, is given in Ellis's Specimens of Early English Poets. In this, "the houses were made of barley sugar and cakes, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing." London has been so called (see Cockney), but Boileau applies the same to Paris.

                                                 Wen Zhengming

Depiction of the tale on a painting from the Long Corridor, Summer Palace, Beijing

The Peach Blossom Spring, a prose written by Tao Yuanming, describes a utopian place.The narrative goes that a fisherman from Wuling sailed upstream a river and came across a beautiful blossoming peach grove and lush green fields covered with blossom petals. Entranced by the beauty, he continued upstream.When he reached the end of the river, he stumbled onto a small grotto. Though narrow at first, he was able to squeeze through the passage and discovered an ethereal utopia, where the people led an ideal existence in harmony with nature. He saw a vast expanse of fertile lands, clear ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo groves, and the like with a community of people of all ages and houses in neat rows. The people wore a style of clothing unlike anything he saw before. They explained that their ancestors escaped to this place during the civil unrest of the Qin Dynasty and they themselves had not left since or had contact with anyone from the outside. They had not even heard of the later dynasties of bygone times or the then-current Jin Dynasty. In the story, the community was secluded and unaffected by the troubles of the outside world.The sense of timelessness was also predominant in the story as a perfect utopian community remains unchanged, that is, it had no decline nor the need to improve. Eventually, the Chinese term Peach Blossom Spring (桃花源) came to be synonymous for the concept of utopia.

Early examples of beautiful utopian places that involve nature and living in a peaceful community. Described in such a way that can make us see it and even to go as far to write such fictitious examples of the streets being made of pastries. That imaginary utopias have been written and imagined since as far back then.
Different examples of utopias in different cultures to show that utopias in literature are universal.


Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is sometimes linked with utopian (and dystopian) literature, because it shares the general preoccupation with ideas of the good (and bad) society. Of the countries Lemuel Gulliver visits, only the Country of the Houyhnhnms approaches a utopia; most of the others have significant dystopian aspects.

Many works combine elements of both utopias and dystopias. Typically, an observer from our world will journey to another place or time and see one society the author considers ideal, and another representing the worst possible outcome. The point is usually that the choices we make now may lead to a better or worse potential future world. Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home fulfils this model, as does Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. In Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing there is no time-travelling observer, but her ideal society is invaded by a neighbouring power embodying evil repression. In Aldous Huxley's Island, in many ways a counterpoint to his better-known Brave New World, the fusion of the best parts of Buddhist philosophy and Western technology is threatened by the "invasion" of oil companies.
In another literary model, the imagined society journeys between elements of utopia and dystopia over the course of the novel or film. At the beginning of The Giver by Lois Lowry, the world is described as a utopia, but as the book progresses, the world's dystopian aspects are revealed.

Examples of dystopia in literature

Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves, with disastrous results. Its stances on the already-controversial subjects of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good earned it position 68 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990–1999.[2] In 2005 the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.[3] It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 41 on the editor's list, and 25 on the reader's list.
Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding’s first novel. Although it was not a great success at the time – selling fewer than 3,000 copies in the United States during 1955 before going out of print – it soon went on to become a best-seller, and by the early 1960s was required reading in many schools and colleges; the novel is currently renowned for being a popular choice of study for GCSE English Literature courses in the United Kingdom. It has been adapted to film twice in English, in 1963 by Peter Brook and 1990 by Harry Hook, and once in Filipino (1976).

#Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru?) is a Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami, completed in 1996 and published in 1999. The story tells of school-children who are forced to fight each other to the death.
The novel was ranked fourth by Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! 2000, an annual mystery and thriller guide book published in Japan.
The novel has been adapted into a 2000 film and a manga series. The novel itself has also been translated into Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Norwegian, and Hungarian.

V for Vendetta is a ten-issue comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated mostly by David Lloyd, set in a dystopian future United Kingdom imagined from the 1980s to about the 1990s. A mysterious masked revolutionary who calls himself "V" works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters. Warner Bros. released a film adaptation of V for Vendetta in 2006.
The series depicts a near-future UK after a nuclear war, which has left much of the world destroyed, though most of the damage to the country is indirect, via floods and crop failures. In this future, a fascist party called Norsefire has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps and now rules the country as a police state. V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign to murder his former captors, bring down the government, and convince the people to rule themselves.

Felt it was good for research to understand different types of utopias and examples of the history of how we have viewed it in art and literature. I wanted to look at the examples of utopia viewed in nature as it is one of the themes I may use for my final project. And also examples of dystopias in literature as looking at different worlds and goverments in the more econmical and urban themes. 


"The avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc."
Entire industries have sprung up to foster a growing tendency of people to remove themselves from the rigors of daily life. Many activities that are normal parts of a healthy existence (e.g., eating, sleeping, exercise, sexual activity) can also become avenues of escapism when taken to extremes or out of proper context.

In the context of being taken to an extreme, the word "escapism" carries a negative connotation, suggesting that escapists are unhappy, with an inability or unwillingness to connect meaningfully with the world.
However, there are some who challenge the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. For instance, J. R. R. Tolkien, responding to the Anglo-Saxon academic debate on escapism in the 1930s, wrote in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" that escapism had an element of emancipation in its attempt to figure a different reality. C. S. Lewis was also fond of humorously remarking that the usual enemies of escape were jailers

Some social critics warn of attempts by the powers that control society to provide means of escapism instead of actually bettering the condition of the people. For example, Karl Marx wrote about religion as being the "opium of the people". Escapist societies appear often in literature. The Time Machine depicts the Eloi, a lackadaisical, insouciant race of the future, and the horror their happy lifestyle belies. The novel subtly criticizes capitalism, or at least classism, as a means of escape. Escapist societies are common in dystopian novels; for example, in Fahrenheit 451 society uses television and "seashell radios" to escape a life with strict regulations and the threat of the forthcoming war. In science fiction media escapism is often depicted as an extension of social evolution, as society becomes detached from physical reality and processing into a virtual one, examples include the virtual world of OZ in 2009 Japanese animated science fiction Summer Wars and the game "Society" in the 2009 American science fiction film Gamer.

German social philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote that utopias and images of fulfillment, however regressive they might be, also included an impetus for a radical social change. According to Bloch, social justice could not be realized without seeing things fundamentally differently. Something that is mere "daydreaming" or "escapism" from the viewpoint of a technological-rational society might be a seed for a new and more humane social order, as it can be seen as an "immature, but honest substitute for revolution".

The Norwegian psychologist Frode Stenseng has presented a dualistic model of escapism in relation to different types of activity engagements. He discusses the paradox that the flow state (Csikszentmihalyi) - which is a highly satisfying and positive psychological state found in e.g. sport engagements - resembles psychological states obtainable through actions such as drug abuse, sexual masochism, and suicide ideation (Baumeister). Accordingly, he deduces that the state of escape can have both positive and negative meanings and outcomes. Stenseng argues that there exists two forms of escapism with different affective outcomes dependent on the motivational focus that lays behind the immersion in the activity. Escapism in the form of self-suppression stems from motives to run away from unpleasant thoughts, self-perceptions, and emotions, whereas self-expansion stems from motives to gain positive experiences through the activity and to discover new aspects of self. Stenseng has developed the Escape scale to measure self-suppression and self-expansion in people´s favorite activities, such as sports, arts, and gaming. Empirical investigations of the model have e.g. shown that the two dimensions are distinctively different with regards to affective outcomes, as well as that some individuals are more prone to engage through one type of escapism, and that situational levels of well-being affects the type of escapism that becomes dominant at a specific time.

Looking into the different ways that literature provides an escapism for some people and how it effects our mental and physical state. How we can engage in something so strongly to be able to engross ourselves at leisure or to escape reality into our own utopias.

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