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  • Titill er á ensku Beneath Big Brothers Eyes. The Surveillance State in Dystopian Literature and Contemporary Culture
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    In recent decades, the field of Surveillance Studies has attracted interest from scholars of the humanities and literature to explore the impact of an evolving surveillance culture on individuals, society and power. This thesis will bring together aspects of dystopian fiction and surveillance theory. The thesis examines the representation of surveillance and totalitarian societies in the dystopian novels Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and The Handmaids Tale (1985). The thesis will also investigate the portrayal of surveillance technology in public and private spaces and will establish how the boundaries between public and the private spaces in the novels are eroded by surveillance methods and technologies which result in individuals feeling isolated and powerless. Dystopian fiction frequently addresses issues of surveillance as the genre is inherently concerned with concepts of autonomy, identity, and power. The novels will be investigated from the perspective of different aspects of dystopian societies, vertical and lateral surveillance, perpetual war, privacy, isolation, and control of language versus objective truth. The thesis will also examine the correlation between the political circumstances prevalent at the time that the novels were being written and examine the ideologies and techniques employed by totalitarian regimes in their attempts to to maintain power and control. These ideologies will be compared to contemporary western society, and will consider whether dystopian societies described in literature may be considered ‘handbooks’ for a totalitarian state. The rapid development and convergence of digital technologies in recent decades has changed the structure of surveillance from a targeted, expensive activity to a culture of relatively inexpensive mass surveillance. The conclusion is that the top down, vertical surveillance, of the totalitarian, panopticon type, described in dystopian literature is more covert and far reaching than most people are aware of on a daily basis, while lateral/participatory surveillance via social media and smart devices has become integrated into peoples everyday lives to the extent that it is almost invisible.

  • 5.5.2022

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