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Orwell's despair, Burdekin's hope: Gender and power in dystopia

Authors
Journal
Women s Studies International Forum
0277-5395
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
7
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/0277-5395(84)90062-1
Disciplines
  • Political Science

Abstract

Abstract George Orwell's 1984 bears a striking resemblance to a little-known anti-fascist dystopia, Swastika Night, that was published twelve years earlier. While the similarities between the two books are in some cases remarkable, of even greater interest is the different treatment of political domination and gender ideology in the two novels. Orwell's critique of power worship is inherently limited by his inability to perceive that preoccupations with power and domination are specifically associated with the male gender role. By contrast, Katherine Burdekin, a feminist writer who published Swastika Night using the pseudonym ‘Murray Constantine’, focuses her critique on the ‘cult of masculinity’ and the fascist dictatorship to which it can lead. Her novel is set 700 years in the future, after Hitlerism has been established in Europe as the official creed, and with it a ‘Reduction of Women’ to an animal level. This essay analyses the relationship between gender and power as understood by these two writers, one world-famous, the other forgotten.

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