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"Normal" Feelings in "Abnormal" Worlds, On the Political Uses of Emotion in Science Fiction Manga

Carl Li defended his thesis on 30 June 2015

C.K. (Carl) Li
30 June 2015
Leiden University Repository

Scholars such as Darko Suvin have successfully argued for science fiction (SF) as fiction that portrays political alternatives through a focus on cognitive processes. This conception of SF minimizes the importance of character emotions, which has opened it to criticism from those who argue in favor of SF as a reflection of people’s wider psychological concerns. This dissertation argues that emotions, even when prominent within the narrative, can contribute directly to the cognitive exploration of political alternatives. If emotions are viewed not as a lack of overt logical reasoning but as a form of potential logic that can also provide alternative perspectives on the SF world, then it becomes possible to look at even emotion-heavy SF as sources of political ideas. This dissertation looks at how the depiction of emotions in SF manga (Japanese comics) affects the conveyance of political ideas. It shows that the portrayal of emotions in science fiction, even those which can be considered “commonplace” or “everyday”, can become political when sufficiently contextualized within alternative SF environments. Whether used to express political ideas or as a way to illuminate SF environments, emotion can expand the scope of possibilities for the exploration of political alternatives in SF.

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Chris Goto-Jones and Dr. Florian Schneider

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