Articulating the elsewhere, Utopia in contemporary feminist dystopias

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 1999
Thesis identifier
  • T9747
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • By examining the relationships between literary texts and theories, feminism and utopianism, this thesis reads some contemporary feminist critical dystopias. It is situated within a developing interest, in the field of utopian studies, both in the literary dystopian subgenre and in its radical potential for social critique. I argue that these fictions offer a privileged cultural space for paradoxical manifestations of feminist utopianisms, aiming to highlight the utopian strategies manifested in them. The first part of the study critically revises Ernst Bloch's utopianist thought, shows the possible alignments between his work and a feminist reading perspective, and elaborates on a way of reading which brings together Bloch's utopianism, narrative semiotics (theorized by Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva), and feminist formulations of utopian "elsewheres". The second part contains close readings of feminist dystopias which succeed in uncovering manifestations of utopian "elsewheres": the representation of utopian space/time in Marge Piercy's Body of Glass and Doris Lessing's The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five; the reconfiguration of the quest pattern in Suzy Mckee Chamas's Walk to the End of the World, Motherlines, and The Furies; and the (a-)linguistic utopianisms in Lisa Tuttle's "The Cure", Suzette Elgin's Native Tongue and The Judas Rose, and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The juxtaposition of such utopian patterns is demonstrated in Margaret Elphinstone's The Incomer and A Sparrow's Flight. My analyses also consider feminist theoretical work on cultural constructions of spatiality, sexual/political separatism, reversal of sexually-polarized power relations, and (meta)linguistic issues. Although this study examines texts written from 1974 to 1994, the bibliography includes fictions published between 1967 and 1998, covering three decades of feminist dystopias. This acts to contextualize this writing within a wider frame, and offers further evidence that the dystopian genre constitutes a major form of expression of contemporary women's utopian desires and hopes.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Fraser, Donald, 1942-
  • Elphinstone, Margaret
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 1999
Former identifier
  • 995707663402996