Exploring Power and Feminism Through the Dystopian Genre

Lærke Isabella Juul Hansen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis explores how recent dystopian literature reflects a change in society’s power structure. It is argued that power has changed from being visible and sovereign to a norm-based, invisible power that is difficult to identify.
The examination is based on the problem formulation: How does dystopian literature reflect a change in power that has developed from being visible to invisible?
It is examined through an analysis of two recent feminist dystopias: Red Clocks (2018) by Leni Zumas and The Power (2016) by Naomi Alderman. Further, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood is included as a framework for the feminist dystopian genre, as it is recognised as a founding contribution to the genre.
The thesis incorporates theory regarding the development and characteristics of the dystopian genre, primarily based on M. Keith Booker. Further, it contains Rita Felski’s and Rick Rylance’s arguments on the importance of literature.
In order to discuss oppression, theory about power is included. Focus is on the power structure “biopolitics”, which is originally presented by Michel Foucault and further developed by Nikolas Rose.
Lastly, theory on feminism is presented in this thesis; this with a focus on historical development and the importance of words and phrasings. The thesis is written with a binary gender understanding, which is argued for in the method section.
My thesis shows that the dystopian novels do reflect a change in power and that they do debate current feminist issues, although, in very different ways. Red Clocks exaggerates social norms and biases from today’s society and turns them visibly oppressive. The Power uses the device ostranenie to challenge the understanding of men and women and power between them.
In the discussion, it is debated whether or not these novels succeed in being critical of society. Further, it is questioned whether literature is superior when it comes to empathic influence and if the dystopian genre is an especially good type of literature in this connection. This is based on theory by Susanne Keen.
The thesis concludes that power structures between men and women have become more norm-based rather than visibly oppressive. Further, it is concluded that the novels do in fact challenge these issues in society, and that the dystopian genre is especially prone to do this. However, whether or not this does result in changes in society and that dystopian literature is, thus, an aid in handling these matters remains debatable.

UddannelserEngelsk, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jan. 2019
VejledereJesper Kruse