Philosophy of literary depictions of totalitarianism in the twentieth century


SUPERVISOR(S) - Professor Daniel Williams and Dr Steve Vine


THESIS TITLE - The philosophy of literary depictions of totalitarianism in the twentieth century.  


The twentieth century witnessed some of the most devastating totalitarian regimes in history. My thesis explores the idea of totalitarianism as analysed by philosophers (Ayn Rand, Hannah Arendt and Slavoj Zizek), and analyses the ways in which it is challenged, embodied and mediated in twentieth century literature. Looking at authors such as Rand, Orwell, Huxley and Sinclair Lewis my research explores the literary representations of totalitarian societies, analysing the philosophical grounds of the authors’ vision, and identifying thematic and formal similarities and differences between them.

Given recent political events throughout the West, ‘totalitarianism’ is a pertinent topic in contemporary cultural analysis and my hope is that the thesis will assist in demonstrating the usefulness of literary scholarship to analyses of current events. Additionally, I hope that my research will encourage a fair engagement with the ideas of Ayn Rand, whose simultaneous critique of liberalism and totalitarianism is too easily dismissed by critics in the humanities. My aim in this respect is to explore the strengths and limits of Rand’s critique of totalitarianism as a basis for reading literary texts.