Humour and dystopia: the comedy of entropy in Saramago and Ballard
AbstractIf the first half of the 20th century was marked by gloomy totalitarian dystopias characterized by ruthless military rule, the second half has seen a proliferation of apocalyptic narratives of socio-political entropy and moral collapse, whose unvarying results are universal suffering, and sometimes the extinction of life on the planet. This ‘entropic turn’ may also be accompanied by a change of tone, with drama giving in to dark humour – apparently a less despondent reaction to human self-destructiveness –, and the employment or manipulation of anachronistic narrative styles as well as serious parodies of foundational texts of Western civilization. This paper explores, compares and contrasts the various rhetorical strategies used by José Saramago in Ensaio sobre a cegueira (1995) and J.G. Ballard in High Rise (1975) to depict equally dismal scenarios of human regression into barbarism, with a focus on the distinct nature of their humour.
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