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Lenoff, L. (2017). Epilogue: The Uses of Dystopia. Psychoanal. Inq., 37(1):57-59.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 37(1):57-59


Epilogue: The Uses of Dystopia

Lester Lenoff, MSW, LCSW

The issue began in my curiosity, nothing deeper, about a cultural artifact, a form of entertainment, the popularity of young adult (YA) dystopian narratives and their spinoff games and television series. Fortunately, my contributors took the subject in directions and to a depth beyond what I had foreseen. And this Epilogue took longer to write, going through more false starts, knowingly headed for deletion even as they were being repeatedly revised, than any previous issue. At first I wrote this off to the chores that fill up my daily routine, abetted by my appetite for distraction. Then, in one of those distractions I came upon a review, by Julian Barnes (2015) in The New York Review of Books (NYR), of a chronicle of one of the countless atrocities of the last hundred years. Barnes quotes a political theorist who read the manuscript:

“I don’t know how many people will read this,” he worries. “Theoretically I was prepared for the whole thing, you’d already told me so much about it, but even so I had to stop reading every several dozen pages, so hard did I find it.” [p. 31]

Barnes concludes that the slow pace of reading or writing about atrocity is imposed by “a broader question: the rate at which we can stomach the truths of man’s inhumanity to man, and ruminate on their causes” (p. 31).

Dystopian narratives cannot be disengaged from the broader question of the capacity of human beings toward inhuman treatment, even toward members of their own kind that they construct as Others.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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