Dystopias are not supposed to provide solutions to the problems of the societies they describe. The condition of women and men is, for the most part, dramatically “equal”: they are both crushed by an authoritarian system that deprives them of the most elementary rights and robs lives of all human dignity. The main function of dystopias, in fact, is not so much to present possible solutions, but to warn readers of the dangers that society is facing and, thus, to stimulate a critical reflection. However, feminist critics have shown how gender affects the different dystopian visions of women and men (cf. Barr 2000, Mohr 2005, Patai 1984, among others). The different awareness of gender issues and relations represents then the main difference between female and male novels – an aspect that also involves other themes, such as violence or the purely reproductive function of women, which, in women’s literature, are seen as indissolubly linked to the cult of virility and the idea of masculinity that are at the root of the totalitarian regimes of the thirties and forties. In general, the works written in those years by European women are gender specific precisely as they recognize the link between misogyny, totalitarianism, and violence. They tie the main problems of the times to the rituals and ideology of the extreme right in Europe that, in the construction of a world of virulent misogyny and racism, sought an answer to the emasculation brought about by the loss of World War I. The populist fascist ideology provided the answer to the “unnatural” society that was considered to be largely dominated by women. A look at the works of women who published in the years immediately before or after the 1940s reveals their awareness of the link between totalitarianism and misogyny. Among them, are British author Katharine Burdekin, the Swedish poet Karin Boye, as well as Bryher (Winifred Ellerman), who was also a British writer. My analysis will be chronological: I will therefore proceed according to the publication date of the different novels, starting with Burdekin, who wrote several dystopias, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Swastika Night (1937), but also Proud Man (1934) and The End of This Day’s Business (written in 1935, but published only in 1989). I will continue with a reading of Kallocain, a grim 1940 dystopia by Boye, and end with a recently re-released novel, Visa for Avalon, first published by Bryher in 1965, in an attempt to give an overview of the misogyny of the period and to trace the common and specific elements that characterize these narratives.

At the Root of Totalitarianism: Misogyny and Violence in Women’s Dystopias

Baccolini, Raffaella
2019

Abstract

Dystopias are not supposed to provide solutions to the problems of the societies they describe. The condition of women and men is, for the most part, dramatically “equal”: they are both crushed by an authoritarian system that deprives them of the most elementary rights and robs lives of all human dignity. The main function of dystopias, in fact, is not so much to present possible solutions, but to warn readers of the dangers that society is facing and, thus, to stimulate a critical reflection. However, feminist critics have shown how gender affects the different dystopian visions of women and men (cf. Barr 2000, Mohr 2005, Patai 1984, among others). The different awareness of gender issues and relations represents then the main difference between female and male novels – an aspect that also involves other themes, such as violence or the purely reproductive function of women, which, in women’s literature, are seen as indissolubly linked to the cult of virility and the idea of masculinity that are at the root of the totalitarian regimes of the thirties and forties. In general, the works written in those years by European women are gender specific precisely as they recognize the link between misogyny, totalitarianism, and violence. They tie the main problems of the times to the rituals and ideology of the extreme right in Europe that, in the construction of a world of virulent misogyny and racism, sought an answer to the emasculation brought about by the loss of World War I. The populist fascist ideology provided the answer to the “unnatural” society that was considered to be largely dominated by women. A look at the works of women who published in the years immediately before or after the 1940s reveals their awareness of the link between totalitarianism and misogyny. Among them, are British author Katharine Burdekin, the Swedish poet Karin Boye, as well as Bryher (Winifred Ellerman), who was also a British writer. My analysis will be chronological: I will therefore proceed according to the publication date of the different novels, starting with Burdekin, who wrote several dystopias, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Swastika Night (1937), but also Proud Man (1934) and The End of This Day’s Business (written in 1935, but published only in 1989). I will continue with a reading of Kallocain, a grim 1940 dystopia by Boye, and end with a recently re-released novel, Visa for Avalon, first published by Bryher in 1965, in an attempt to give an overview of the misogyny of the period and to trace the common and specific elements that characterize these narratives.
Utopias sonhadas/distopias anunciadas: Feminismo, gênero e cultura queer na literatura
41
55
Baccolini, Raffaella
File in questo prodotto:
Eventuali allegati, non sono esposti

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/715771
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact