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The Utopian Call: Utopian Projects and the Struggle for the “Good” Anthropocene

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Some of the principle questions that my dissertation addresses are: How can literature be used to think about broad social and political change? How can fiction be used to dramatize and illustrate different types of relationships between people and the nonhuman world? What role does fiction play in debates on the effects of climate change and what people should do about it? In order to address these questions, my dissertation develops a concept that I termed the “Utopian Call” as a way to theorize how utopian ideals can manifest in a society and compel people to work toward a coherent vision of society. In order to develop the concept of the Utopian Call, I analyze Ernst Bloch's concept of the “Not-Yet” from his Principle of Hope, as well as some further theoretical work on utopia by authors such as Ruth Levitas, Tom Moylan, and Darko Suvin. I also argue that the utopian aspects of literary texts as well as those of social and political movements function in a similar way to an ideology as put forth by Louis Althusser.

I analyze how the Utopian Call manifests in select works of science fiction authors Octavia E. Butler and Kim Stanley Robinson, because both authors are exemplary for using some of the ill effects of the Anthropocene as the background for their stories as well as offering strategies in their texts for how to move forward towards a better Anthropocene. Some of the key concepts that I use in my analysis are the nature of human agency in the face of climatic and geologic change, the relationship between utopian visions and the movement of history, humanity versus posthumanity, John Holloway's critique of work and power, the relationship between education and utopian visions, and the role of the Commons in the twenty-first century and beyond.

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