Visions of the future

Explore the ways in which 20th-century writers imagined the future, investigated the present and prepared for the unknown.

1984

Nineteen Eighty Four and the politics of dystopia

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

Roger Luckhurst describes the political environment in which George Orwell wrote and published Nineteen Eighty-Four, and analyses its different – and often opposing – interpretations.

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An introduction to Crash

An introduction to Crash

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

The subject and style of Crash has shocked and disturbed readers since its publication. Roger Luckhurst describes the writing and reception of J G Ballard's controversial novel.

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crash

The opening of Crash in slow motion

Article by:
Chris Beckett

Chris Beckett provides a close reading of the manuscript draft of Crash by J G Ballard, focussing on the novel's opening pages.

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An introduction to High Rise

An introduction to High-Rise

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

Roger Luckhurst introduces High-Rise, J G Ballard's novel about the disintegrating social fabric inside a luxury high-rise apartment block.

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Ballard and Art

J G Ballard and modern art

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

Roger Luckhurst describes the influence of modern art, especially Surrealism and Pop Art, on J G Ballard and, in turn, Ballard's influence on visual artists.

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Dystopia

Freedom or oppression? The fear of dystopia

Article by:
Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley considers how British, Russian and American writers created repressive imaginary worlds and totalitarian regimes in order to explore 20th-century political concerns.

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utopia

Where the grass is greener: the dream of utopia

Article by:
Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley describes how 20th-century writers dreamed up new and better worlds in their fiction – while at the same time confronting the likelihood that no imagined world, however good, could suit everyone.

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technology and literature

Modern literature and technology

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

From the telegraph and the gramophone to cinema and cyberspace, 20th-century literature frequently addressed the wondrous and weird nature of emerging technologies. Here Roger Luckhurst explores the ways in which technological innovation impacted on key literary works of the period.

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Further themes

Art, music and popular culture

From riots at the ballet to punk rock fanzines, discover the music, art and popular culture that shook the world in the 20th century.

Capturing and creating the modern

Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.

European influence

From Paris to Moscow and from Berlin to Dublin, discover how European cities were crucibles for modernist experimentation.

Fantasy and fairy tale

From subversive fairy tales to gothic nightmares, explore how 20th-century writers used fantasy to analyse and question the real world around them.

Gender and sexuality

From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and E M Forster’s Maurice to Sylvia Plath’s journals and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, discover how literature explored, questioned and exploded traditional ideas of gender roles and sexuality.

Literature 1900–1950

From The Waste Land to Ulysses and from Mrs Dalloway to Nineteen Eighty-Four, discover the seminal literary works of the early 20th century.

Literature 1950–2000

From The Bell Jar and Birthday Letters to High-Rise and The Buddha of Suburbia, explore key literary works of the late 20th century.

Power and conflict

From First World War poetry to works inspired by the Blitz and from futuristic dystopias to depictions of religious radicalism, see how war and conflict shaped 20th-century literature.

Visions of the future

From Orwell’s Ministry of Truth to Ballard’s crashed cars, see how 20th-century writers imagined the future, investigated the present and prepared for the unknown.