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Imagining Surveillance

Eutopian and Dystopian Literature and Film

Peter Marks

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Critically assesses how literary and cinematic eutopias and dystopias have imagined and evaluated surveillance

Imagining Surveillance presents the first full-length study of the depiction and assessment of surveillance in literature and film. Focusing on the utopian genre (which includes positive and negative worlds), this book offers an in-depth account of the ways in which the most creative writers, filmmakers and thinkers have envisioned alternative worlds in which surveillance in various forms plays a key concern. Ranging from Thomas More’s genre-defining Utopia to Spike Jones’ provocative film Her, Imagining Surveillance explores the long history of surveillance in creative texts well before and after George Orwell’s iconic Nineteen Eighty-Four. It fits that key novel into a five hundred year narrative that includes some of the most provocative and inventive accounts of surveillance as it is and as it might be in the future. The book explains the sustained use of these works by surveillance scholars, but goes much further and deeper in explicating their brilliant and challenging diversity. With chapters on surveillance studies, surveillance in utopias before Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four itself, and utopian texts post-Orwell that deal with visibility, spaces, identity, technology and the shape of things to come, Imagining Surveillance sits firmly in the emerging cultural studies of surveillance.

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1. Surveillance Studies and Utopian Texts
2. Surveillance Beofre Big Brother
3. Nineteen Eighty-Four
4. Visibility
5. Spaces
6. Identities
7. Technologies
8. Things to Come

About the Author

Peter Marks is Professor of English at the University of Sydney.


A stimulating voice from the humanities converses tellingly with those from the social sciences on surveillance, that unavoidable feature of twenty-first century life. Packed with pithy insights, the book deftly demonstrates why this dialogue is needed. It¹s an exhilarating exploration of film and fiction that shows how engaging with experience and ethics is indispensable for understanding surveillance today.

- David Lyon, Director, the Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen’s University, Canada

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