Imperialism and the sublime in the science fictional works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Karel Čapek

Paudyal, Bed Prasad
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2013]
This dissertation examines the works of three seminal science fiction writers to enquire into the aesthetic-ideological code that articulated the varied ideologies of imperialism, allowing it to elide its atrocities and project itself as a grand civilizing mission. Drawing upon theories of the sublime and studies of imperialism, I argue that the historical confluence of Enlightenment, capitalism, and colonialism was appropriated by imperialist ideology to phantasmically construct the project of empire, in aesthetic terms, as the sublime triumph of world-historical progress. Chapter One discusses the central terms of the study--science fiction, imperialism, and the sublime--before it argues that the aesthetics of awe and wonder generally recognized as a generic feature of science fiction has its historical roots in the ideology of imperialist sublime. Chapter Two shows that in the science fictional narratives of Jules Verne, nature as the sublime Other is constructed as a theater for the Euro-American imperial male to assert himself as the sublime subject of scientific knowledge and technological power. Chapter Three argues that the scientific romances and utopias of H. G. Wells represent the imperialist subject ambivalently, as the humbled self stripped of its pretenses of civilization and as the triumphant agent of world-historical progress. Chapter Four studies the critique of capitalist expansionist fantasy in Karel Čapek's science fiction narratives, which expose the inherently destructive nature of capitalism by letting its utopian, expansionist fantasy run its course and turn into a nightmarish double.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
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