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The Good Place

Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI

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Edited By Florian Mussgnug and Matthew Reza

Utopian literature provides a compelling vision of epistemological and moral clarity: a dream of harmony and justice. But in an age of surveillance, utopia is also the nightmare of a perfectly controlled, sealed and monitored world that leaves no room for ambivalence or discretion. In The Good Place, leading scholars of comparative literature explore this tension and examine the richness and diversity of utopian writing, from the genre’s earliest manifestations to the present. Utopia is seen as a tenacious force of the human imagination: a desire for renewal that manifests itself in the tension between social reality and the virtual worlds of unlived possibility. Notable for its engagement with a wide range of texts from different periods and national traditions, this book invites the reader to rethink ‘the good place’ from the specific perspective of literary studies and suggests that utopia, in the realm of fiction, is more than just a philosophical abstraction. Mediated by the experience of authors, characters and readers, utopian literature offers a transient but genuine experience of perfection, beyond the horizon of everyday lived experience.
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Strategy Games in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

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← 222 | 223 → ANDRÉ HANSEN

Chess is one of the oldest and still widespread strategy games in the world. It exerts a fascination on a large range of people, including, among others, mathematicians, artists and politicians. It seems to somehow complement many kinds of human activities. This game, as Stefan Zweig’s protagonist in Schachnovelle (1989) points out, would be the only game that does not depend on coincidence, but only on the mental abilities of the players: ‘the only game ever devised by mankind that rises magnificently above the tyranny of chance, awarding the palm of victory solely to the mind or rather to a certain kind of mental gift’.1

Zweig’s protagonist proceeds in stating that the game is mechanical in its conception, but effective only through the fantasy of the players: ‘mechanical in structure, yet made effective only by the imagination’.2

These thoughts on chess seem to be valid for strategy games in general. There are always rules players must not transgress, but there is also the aspect of interacting minds apparently transcending the purely mechanical level. Of course, one can be sceptical regarding this dichotomy of mechanics and mind, and the fact that science actually questions the essential uniqueness of the human mind is one of the most important concerns of Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake (2003).

← 223 | 224 → This novel narrates a world after the end of mankind where some people may have survived, but most of them are...

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