Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Justine Van Meter
This thesis explores the boundaries between the concepts of utopia and dystopia by analyzing how recent texts view the pillars of dystopian literature. Specifically, it investigates the discrepancy between the stance of Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business and Don DeLillo in White Noise in situating the visions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley within the context of the new media age. In Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Neil Postman draws a dichotomy between the prophecies of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. He claims that Orwell's vision of the future which he presents in 1984, an existence marked by authoritarian government control exercised through restricted access to information, has proven to be invalid in the age of new media. Postman also claims that a more accurate vision of the future was provided by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. In this thesis I argue that White Noise, in fact, favors the Orwellian perspective. As opposed to Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, White Noise does not perceive the limitations of the form, or the innate human appetite for amusement for that matter, to be causes for the omnipresent tragic outcome of media consumption that we witness today, rather, it distinguishes them as tools utilized for creating and directing this outcome. Although there are major differences between the causes of compliance constituting authoritarianism in 1984 and in Brave New World (external and internal) and the ways in which authoritarianism is executed (through deprivation or overabundance), there are still undeniable traces of the existence of a general base/superstructure power dynamic that is heightened through mass media technology and that manifests itself through the content of the newer forms. This analysis of the power of the newer form in maintaining the status quo illuminates the psychological conditioning exercised through them. This reveals the dynamics of our current consumerist utopia and, thereby, raises infinite questions on the conceptual essence of both utopia and dystopia and the nature of their borders.
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Almaghdi, Turki. The Dystopian Impulse and Media Consumption: Redefining Utopia Via the Narrative Economics of the New Media Age. 2021. Chapman University, MA Thesis. Chapman University Digital Commons, https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000265