CFP: Brave New Worlds

This conference includes a keynote from one of my old lecturers from Dundee. Keith Williams is an expert on Modernism and H. G. Wells.

Brave New Worlds: The Dystopia in Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Keynotes: Professor Andrzej Gasiorek (Birmingham); Dr Keith Williams (Dundee)

Newcastle University, 29th April 2015

“Now I no longer live in our clear, rational world; I live in the ancient nightmare world, the world of square roots of minus one.”

― Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (1924)

From the early dystopias of Yevgeny Zamyatin (We, 1924) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, 1931) depicting future worlds where humans are bred in test tubes and assigned numbers instead of names, the dystopia has featured ever more prominently in literature, as writers concerned with the state of the modern world seek to understand and interpret the prevalent political and social conditions through the reimagining of familiar spaces or the creation of fantastical new ones. The dystopia has also been prominent in cinema from the early twentieth century, Fritz Lang’s pioneering work of science fiction cinema, Metropolis (1927), a forerunner of the filmic representation of dystopian society. This burgeoning branch of science fiction has become a literary subgenre in its own right through its appropriation by contemporary authors such as JG Ballard, Margaret Atwood and Philip K Dick, giving rise to numerous screen adaptations, and in the present day has saturated contemporary literary and cinematic culture, earning millions at the box office, as the young adult dystopias of the Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent which have permeated popular culture of the last decade are adapted for the Hollywood screen.

From Pan-Em and Airstrip One, to future versions of London and Los Angeles, to abandoned, nuclear-blasted wastelands, this interdisciplinary conference seeks to examine the dystopia itself; various aspects of the physical space that comprises the fabric of the nightmarish futures the writers and filmmakers seek to visualise, and its effects on those who reside within, or outside, of it. It can be a place of tyranny and conflict, or of emptiness and desolation. The spaces within it can be teeming with an abundance of human life yet devoid of warmth and spirit. How do citizens of dystopian society respond and react to their surroundings and on what foundations is dystopian society built? Whether designed to serve as a warning to future generations or merely visualising an imagined future for today’s civilisation, the dystopia looks set to continue its impact on the fictional world for the foreseeable future.

We invite 300-word abstracts (for 20-minute-long papers) on any topic relating to the dystopia in modern and contemporary literature and film; possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Urban decay – the decline of the city in future dystopia
  • Internal and external spaces – the posthuman body in the dystopia
  • Temporal landscapes: memory, dreams and the dystopian protagonist
  • Cinematic dystopia – adaptation, representation, the dystopia in Hollywood
  • Capitalism and commodity
  • Politics and the ruling class
  • Bio-ethics/eco-futurism
  • Gender, sexuality and reproduction
  • Oppression and rebellion

Submissions to k.madgwick@ncl.ac.uk by 15th December 2014. Please include a short bio.

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