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MA Students Organized a Conference on the Dystopian Literature and Cinema

30.01.2017

On 20-23 January, the students of the MA Programme in Comparative Literature and Cultural Semiotics and the MA Programme in Anthropology organized the graduate conference "Rethinking the Dystopian Imaginary. From Zamyatin’s We to The Hunger Games" and a festival of dystopian movies. 

The idea to organize the Dystopian Fest was conceived during the course taught by Professor Daniele Monticelli, which concentrated on dystopian novels - from Zamyatin's We to contemporary young adult fiction such as The Hunger Games. In the weekly seminars, students discussed and analyzed various themes in dystopian novels: the issue of power and how it is exercised in the totalitarian states, questions of freedom, happiness and safety, the role of art in the era of rapid technological development, and the relationship between emotionality and logic. More attention was paid to the concept of biopolitics through the lens of Foucault and Agamben’s theories. 

In the end of the semester, students organized the conference where they delivered presentations based on their final essay, which included a comparative analysis of two dystopian novels, or two films or a novel and a film. The student conference provided a wide range of interesting topics; for instance, the role of religion and free will in the post-apocalyptic world, gender relations in dystopian societies, reality and simulacrum, language and its dystopian distortions, the questions of soul, memory, and desire, the comical aspects in the dystopian cinema, etc. 

The conference was followed by the screenings of six films chosen by the students. The aim was to show different perspectives on dystopia. Therefore, the program included Fritz Lang’s Metropolis from 1927, a pioneering work of science-fiction genre; Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965), which beautifully creates an atmosphere of a typical closed and isolated dystopian state and the cult of logic, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) with its futuristic world, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), and Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) raising the problem of high technological development and human-replicant/operating system relations. The festival closed with the screening of Lars von Trier’s film Dogville (2003), which moved the focus from technology to human nature and its hidden secrets.