Archaeologies of the Future: Jameson's Utopia or Orwell's Dystopia?

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

This paper begins with the proposition that Fredric Jameson's Archaeologies of the Future (2005) is the most important theoretical contribution to utopian and science-fiction studies since Darko Suvin's Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979). It argues that Jameson's derivation of 'anti-anti-Utopianism' from Sartrean anti-anti-communism will provide 'the party of Utopia' with as good a slogan as it is likely to find in the foreseeable future. It takes issue with Jameson over two key issues: his overwhelming concentration on American science-fiction, which seems strangely parochial in such a distinguished comparativist; and his understanding of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as an 'anti-Utopia' rather than a dystopia. The paper argues that, for Nineteen Eighty-Four, as for any other science-fiction novel, the key question is that identified by Jameson: not 'did it get the future right?', but rather 'did it sufficiently shock its own present as to force a meditation on the impossible?'. It concludes that Jameson fails to understand how this process works for dystopia as well as utopia, for barbarism as well as socialism.

Archaeologies of the Future: Jameson's Utopia or Orwell's Dystopia?

in Historical Materialism

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