Research Proposal Sample on Political Propaganda in Futuristic Fiction
Political Propaganda in Futuristic Fiction of the Twentieth Century
Literature of the twentieth century actively used the genre of futuristic fiction for creative texts, which were meant to warn the reader of the danger or temptation of a particular political regime and ideologies. Consequently, the modern reader can read novels that criticize and ridicule the main totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century or read novels built on a certain political will of the author, for example, to describe the feminists state, or to enjoy philosophical texts that call for critical thinking about specific events and public movement.
The presence of the author and their political position and political message, which the author wanted to put into the work, the thoughts and actions that are expressed by the heroes of novels, and the system in which they exist make possible the creation of futuristic fiction in which the politics and propaganda of specific ideas play a different role. Consequently, this research has selected several of the most famous works in the genre of futuristic fiction and evaluate analytically the role and function of politics in these texts, as well as the existence of “inner” political propaganda. Since the understanding of politics and propaganda should be interpreted broadly, all selected texts, which were analyzed in the study, were carriers of specific political messages regardless of the main political ideas outlined in the novel and embodied by the heroes.
Description of the Topic
For centuries, even long before the creation of the futuristic fiction genre, humanity mocked texts filled with elements of fantasy about the future. At first, such details did not have a clear connection with the construction of another reality, or with another political order. An excellent example of such books is the novel by Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels, where Gulliver travels to different countries and shows their social and political order giving the reader hints and jokes about life in England and its politics. However, along with the development of the genre and changes in society, a particular type of literature arises in which the author describes the future, which is always viewed as an alternative future. This sense of alternate reality is created because the author takes some tendencies or desires of his or her compatriots and society and hyperbolizes them, putting them into the foundation of the described world.
There is no need to speak or think about the society in such books as the real one or one that is expected to be; those books are telling the stories about the possible future that can happen unless people begin to think critically. The authors of such novels are usually confident that the absence of an aggressive or fast response to such tendencies can lead to the emergence of such a world. Therefore, these novels, in addition to the functions that the literature is typically performing, such as entertainment, self-reflection, and the introduction of new information, encourages readers to reflect on the political reality in which they live. For example, the novel Brave New World was written in 1932 by Aldous Huxley and tells a story of the world based on technologies and genetic engineering. This book reflects humanity’s hope on the helpfulness of technological progress, criticizes early consumerism, and reflects on practices of eugenics that were popular at the moment of writing. So, Huxley urges his readers to reflect on their hopes and think critically about the process that is occurring in society.
In addition to such works in this genre, futuristic fiction of the twentieth century developed some other forms. One of them is novels dedicated to criticizing the architecture of some states and ideologies. It is known that all totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century were harsh and cruel; however, at first, they were tolerated both at the domestic level and at the level of international politics. Therefore, some books described the world of communism, nazism, or capitalism, criticizing these ideologies. Suitable examples of such books can be War with the Newts by Karel Čapek (1936), and Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945). There are also novels that create new worlds within a desired ideology or worldview; for example, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) describes the society of women living in isolation and ruled by women. This book is, perhaps, the first feminist utopia. In all such novels, the politics reflect the political views of the author, filtered through a given political system in which heroes function, through political beliefs of leading characters and the like. For understanding such literature, it is essential to understand the context of their writing: the critique of communism in the beginning of the century differs from the criticism of communism in the novels of the Cold War. It should be added that the twentieth century gave the world a large number of first-class authors who worked with this genre and managed to create not only an interesting literary work, but also classics of literature that, addressing the reader due to purely literary indicators, are capable of carrying a serious message and warning about the fact that totalitarianism and concentration camps are always close to one’s civilized world than one expects. In addition, the troubled twenty-first century, with wars and severe international conflicts, showed that the collapse of the USSR does not mean the completion of competing ideologies or worldviews; moreover, some tendencies invite the rereading of texts of the last century to understand more profoundly what is happening right now. A good example of such rereading is the television series The Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985). The return of right-wing movements to European politics and Trump’s victory helped people to read this novel not only as a story, but as a warning. It can be said that among the literature of such genre, books began to appear that describe not the far away future, but the closest one: both the story and the series are telling of the events that happen in the nearest future. Therefore, the futuristic fiction of the twentieth century that contains any sort of political propaganda is represented by many well-written and awarded books that influence their reader and make them think about certain issues.
Sometimes it is hard to be accurate about what politics is, as well as how one needs to treat and understand propaganda. This research proposal is based on the broad understanding of politics, in which state and ideology regulate every aspect of social order and daily practices of ordinary people. In such an understanding, propaganda is a part of official communication between the authorities and citizens. It is true that in the twentieth century there were books written purely as propaganda, celebrating the order made by a certain regime or creating satire on the particular states and ideologies, but such texts are more suitable for analysis in the context of evaluating means and types of propaganda.
There is a strong connection between topics and themes described in these books and the current life: totalitarianism, alienation of a person, lack of personal and political freedoms, political extremism, etc. Therefore, this literature should be scrutinized to see how some issue arose from small premises or how they can be opposed. Moreover, it is interesting to track how some authors deal with the topic regarding their personal political outlook and the political environment in which they write and live.
One must realize that practically all popular and essential works of futuristic fiction of the twentieth century attracted the attention of researchers who showed the existence of political propaganda in the text at different levels. Although this research proposal concerns the genre of futuristic fiction, one can use studies on novels as examples of academic research and be able to notice how propaganda is working within the text. As an example, one can use CliffNotes on Huxley’s Brave New World by Charles and Regina Higgins (2000), which dismantles the creation of Brave New World and the functioning of the author’s view of politics. Without a doubt, one of the most famous works of this genre is Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949), a critical piece of literature which can serve as a manual for subsequent researches of deconstruction and satire of political propaganda, which simultaneously carried a specific political message. So, the most interesting are such papers as The Larger Evils – Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Truth Behind the Satire by West (1992), The Future As Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians by Hillegas (1967), and 1984 Revisited: Totalitarianism in Our Century by Howe (1983). All these books are useful because they show ways of interpretation and perusal of the text in various political contexts.
There are also many academic works on futuristic fiction of the twentieth century. The biggest use for studying this topic can be found in Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide by Booker (1994), Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial by Gottlieb (2001), and Utopian/Dystopian Literature by Haschak (1994). These books investigate the system of this genre and how the architecture, inner logic, and rules of this genre help to bring awareness to propaganda by denying it or making a joke of it. Some of these books analyze somewhat unknown books in this genre, which makes these books more valuable for the research. Among these works, a particular place is occupied by the book The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made of by Thomas M. Disch (1998), which concludes and deconstructs the American futuristic fiction of the twentieth century, which was one of the most successful in this genre and remains so until now. The author shows how certain cliches are designed to recreate the existing hegemonic power and translate the ideology, the existence of which the reader does not always note. Therefore, this research can be based on broader literature because this topic was analyzed by researchers from different areas like the theory of literature, cultural studies, and the intersection of political and literature studies.
Literature differs from social and STEM sciences because, after all, it is based on human creativity that creates some difficulties in choosing the accurate methodology. At the same time, since the topic of this proposal is related to the existence of political propaganda in a certain corpus of texts, it can be argued that the analytical method is the best way to collect the books in this genre, to choose all that is necessary for this evaluation, and to read and analyze by creating specific criteria based on knowledge obtained from the theory of literature and political theory, in particular theoretical ideas about ideology and propaganda. In addition, it will be a qualitative comparative analysis of the selected texts, because although the topic concerns the whole genre, it is impossible to talk about it without a closer, more specific analysis of particular books without further comparing them in order to find some typical and nontypical features of the genre and putting political ideas in fictional texts.
In conclusion, books written in the genre of futuristic fiction in the twentieth century offer various types of analysis of politics and political systems reflected in the texts. There are different kinds of futuristic novels based on the author’s intention to create the story that ridicules or forces to think critically or to dream about some perfect political order. However, along with the existing explicit level of political ideas and thoughts in those books, one can analyze this genre searching for the inner unconscious presence of political propaganda expressed by the author or influenced by the context, in which the author used to live and write.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Random House Inc., 2017.
Booker, M. Keith. Dystopian Literature. Greenwood Press, 1994.
Capek, Karel. War with the Newts. PENGUIN BOOKS, 2018.
Disch, Thomas M. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. Touchstone, 2000.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. [Read Books], 2012.
Gottlieb, Erika. Dystopian Fiction East and West. Mcgill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.
Haschak, Paul G. Utopian Dystopian Literature. Scarecrow Press, 1994.
Higgins, Charles, and Regina Higgins. Cliff Notes On Huxley’s Brave New World. Wiley, 2000.
Hillegas, Mark R. The Future As Nightmare. Feffer and Simons, 1976.
Howe, Irving. 1984 Revisited. Harper and Row, 1984.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. Harpertorch, 2014.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. VINTAGE CLASSICS, 2018.
Orwell, George, and Patrick Tull. Animal Farm. Findaway World, 2008.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels Into Several Remote Regions of the World. Anboco, 2016.
West, William J. The Larger Evils. Canongate Press, 1992.