'The Ones Who Read to the End': Dystopian Endings

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Picking up on the centrality of “the reader” to definitions of dystopian fiction, this short presentation argues that a dystopian fiction cannot assume its reader but must push and pull against dominant modes of reading to create a space for its own reading. The example is used of Ursula K. Le Guin’s chastisement of anti-utopian reading in “The Ones who Walk Away From Omelas.” N.K. Jemisin’s “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” is then briefly used to historicise the contemporary reader dystopian fiction fights for. Throughout the presentation, dystopian endings are centred as a key formal and political dilemma for dystopian fictions. It is suggested that the reader or desired mode of reading is a pivot between the formal narrative work of dystopias, and the historicity of that work.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalMediAzioni: rivista online di studi interdisciplinari su lingue e culture
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021

Bibliographical note

This essay was part of a round-table keynote given by members of the Dystopia Project in January of 2021 at the University of Cappadocia 'Living in the Endtimes' Conference.


  • Dystopia
  • endings
  • form
  • reader


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