From the Island to the Border: The Problematization of Space in Contemporary Dystopian Fiction
Marc Villanueva Mir
Marc Villanueva Mir is a performance artist and researcher. He is currently studying the Master of Arts in Applied Theatre Studies at the Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. His research interest focuses on the enactment of power structures through performative strategies from an interdisciplinary approach that combines literary theory, critical theory, and critical discourse analysis.
This paper aims to offer a renewed perspective on the topic of dystopian fiction by focusing on its treatment and problematization of space. The origins and transformations of the dystopian genre are outlined from a genealogical standpoint (Jean-Marie Schaeffer, 1989) and related to the dialectic of utopian and dystopian discourse, which is understood as one of the most relevant keys to the interpretation of the formal evolution and meaning of contemporary dystopian works. Using Bakhtin’s theory of the chronotope and Lotman’s concept of the spatial model, the paper proposes an approach to utopian literature from the model of the island, and to dystopian fiction from the model of the border. Dystopian fiction is therefore regarded as a critical response to the border that used to be invisible and never thematized in utopian literature, by turning the whole world into an endless border which is understood as a space of exception and a lack of rights. Throughout the article, the models of the island and the border are applied to a comparative commentary between several literary and audiovisual dystopian works, taking both classical and contemporary examples. In most contemporary works, we find an interweaving of islands and borders that was not present in previous dystopian fictions. These dialectics are analyzed in order to translate the spatial conflicts they address into a wider political question about current problems regarding borders and governability, security as a contemporary utopia, and the community as a new agent in front of the failure of the states.