Brian Attebery

Daydreams and Nightmares: Utopias and Dystopias from Fahrenheit 451 to The Hunger Games

One purpose of art is to challenge the status quo. Two closely related branches of literature are the utopia—a vision of a better kind of society—and the dystopia—a nightmarish projection from the worst of present-day trends. Dystopias are in fashion right now, especially in young adult fiction such as Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. More positive visions are scarcer, perhaps because convincing utopias are hard to invent and harder to depict in interesting narratives. This presentation looks at examples of both forms and explores the ways they question expectations and challenge social structures. Those challenges sometimes lead, as Ray Bradbury pointed out in his dystopian Fahrenheit 451, to the banning and even burning of books.