B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two Versus Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: What-Topia?
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The paper compares the societies presented in B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It highlights that, if the criterion of authorial intent, used widely in utopian and dystopian criticism, is applied, Skinner’s novel is utopian while Huxley’s is dystopian, despite significant similarities in the assumptions about human nature that the two societies seem to make. Using the controversies surrounding Walden Two as an example, the paper discusses the relevance of traditionally understood authorial intent for utopian and dystopian literary studies. A different, “three-dimensional” model, is then presented, in which authorial intent, reader reception and an individual critic’s reaction are all considered. It is argued that in the case of controversial works – the number of which may increase in modern times, due to the lack of agreement concerning ethics and values – such a tripartite assessment may be more useful, because it is better at capturing the complexity of a work’s impact.
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