The Evolution of Feminist Dystopian Fiction




Trevino, Adam

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In the latter half of the 2010s, perhaps as a result of the current American political climate and citizens’ collective anxiety over the future, classic dystopian novels made their way back to the top of national bestseller lists. In addition to this sort of “comeback” that older dystopian novels seem to be making, the contemporary dystopian genre has seen a substantial surge in popularity since 2016, producing a new crop of novels that address a wide range of fears members of present-day society may have: fear of technology and our increasing dependence on it, fear of corporations and capitalism, fear of climate change and environmental catastrophes, etc. Probably the most popular subgenre of this new wave of dystopia is contemporary feminist dystopia, and the huge critical success of recent novels such as The Power by Naomi Alderman (2016), The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (2018), Vox by Christina Dalcher (2018), and many other similar novels is evidence of this increasing popularity. In my thesis, I analyze two popular and critically-acclaimed novels from this new wave of feminist dystopian fiction — Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017) and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (2018) — and, by methods of rhetorical analysis, explore how the feminist dystopian genre has evolved throughout the last decade. Specifically, I compare and contrast the most significant and interesting aspects of these two novels to similar aspects in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), probably the most popular feminist dystopian novel ever and one that undoubtedly influenced the entire new wave of feminist dystopia. By identifying the major differences and similarities between these two generations of novels and placing these differences and similarities in their respective historical contexts, I identify how the feminist dystopian genre has evolved recently and speculate, based on historical and political context, as to why this evolution has occurred. This thesis project is a study on how the contemporary political climate can often affect contemporary literature.



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