Disciplining dystopia: power and the body in contemporary young adult dystopian fiction
thesisposted on 2022-09-12, 11:49 authored by Sara Buggy
Despite a lineage stretching back as far as the 1940s, it is only in recent years that Young Adult (YA) fiction has begun to shed its reputation as a niche category largely deemed unworthy of study. The current boom in popularity of YA fiction has instigated this change. One of the most significant strands of this boom is the proliferation of Young Adult dystopian novels, which began to appear in significant numbers in the early 21st century and which provide the focus for this study. Specifically, this thesis examines the issue of the body and its role in the exertion and resistance of disciplinary power in contemporary YA dystopias. The theoretical model, drawn from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975), bolsters the study of power and the body in five contemporary YA dystopian trilogies: Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. A focus on texts featuring female protagonists accounts for the secondary focus on feminist theory. Combining these approaches, this thesis features close readings facilitated also by Young Adult literary criticism, Children’s literature theory, science fiction criticism, utopian studies, literary theory, feminist theory and cultural studies. In so doing, it seeks to determine whether the treatment of disciplinary power and the body may account for the current interest in YA dystopian fiction. The conclusions drawn propose, firstly, that the conflation of romance genre conventions with the dystopian mode in part account for both the prominence of the body and the depiction of female heroes in these texts. Additionally, I propose that for teens across the Western world, increasing levels of surveillance and highly regulated yet subtle power structures ensure that dystopian treatments of the body and disciplinary power resonate greatly.
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