Joseph Ren

Joseph Ren

LAMP Intern in Innovative Pedagogy (2021-2022); PhD Candidate, Literature

My dissertation, "The Ends of the World-System: Science Fiction During Periods of Hegemonic Collapse," compares post-1973 US science fiction with late Victorian British science fiction to more fully comprehend the conditions of the present. I argue for the unity of the contemporary and late Victorian periods not only on the basis of their shared historical situations of decline and economic stagnation, but also through the fossil fuels (first coal, then oil) that both empires integrated into their economic systems at epochal levels. 

Now that climate catastrophes reach even the imperial core with higher frequency and greater intensity, what could a comparison of current imaginations of the end of the world with those that emerged as the British Empire entered its twilight tell us about our current conjuncture? If, for Edward Saïd, the great European realist novels of the mid-nineteenth century provided the core with "ideas of having an empire," then does late Victorian science fiction provide the British with ideas of no longer having an empire? To what extent does current U.S. science fiction provide Americans with ideas of no longer having an empire? How might current U.S. science fiction differ from its late Victorian analogue, and what could these differences or similarities reveal about the fate of the American-led world system?  (less)

Current Research Interests

Historical materialism, environmental humanities, cultural studies, political economy, imperialism, history of capitalism

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