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Dystopian wor(l)ds: language within and beyond experience

Millward, Julie (2007) Dystopian wor(l)ds: language within and beyond experience. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis examines language in a range of modern and contemporary dystopian literary fiction, and argues for a reinterpretation of Whorfian linguistics as a means of advancing understanding of the dystopian genre's acknowledged propensity to influence the habitual world-view of its readership. Using close stylistic analysis, and with an emphasis on textual patterning, it identifies and examines two distinct and characteristic `languages' of dystopia, and considers the ways in which these discourses contribute to linguistic relativity as a dynamic process in the reading of these fictions. Chapter one defines more precisely the literary genre of dystopia, particularly in relation to notions of space and time, and emphasises the genre's necessary participation in the socio-historical circumstances of its conception and production (the site of a discourse here termed reflective language). The (re)placement of these environments in a futuristic setting is also examined and is shown to be marked by a second discourse, termed speculative language. Chapter two outlines the theoretical foundations of the study and supports its positioning at the interface between the study of language and the study of literature by drawing on theories from both disciplines to orient its subsequent analyses. In this chapter, the concept of linguistic relativity, or Whorfianism, is re-figured as a process intrinsic to the reading of dystopian narratives, and is combined with the more literary critical theory of cognitive estrangement. In order to maintain focus on the reader-text relationship, and to locate the analyses from a readerly perspective, some common, or `folklinguistic', beliefs about translatability and the `inadequacy' of language are also invoked. Chapters three, four, and five are devoted to case studies: chapter three discusses the non-Newspeak speculative language in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and chapter four begins with an analysis of reflective language in the same novel before looking at three other twentieth-century dystopian texts (Katherine Burdekin's Swastika Night, L. P. Hartley's Facial Justice, and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale). Chapter five brings together speculative and reflective language in its consideration of Atwood's Oryx and Crake, which also serves to bring this study into the twenty-first century. A summary and conclusions follow in chapter six.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.488670
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 15:26
Last Modified: 09 May 2014 15:26
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3637

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