Research Proposal

November 22nd, 2016

I will be working on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a book that depicts a dystopian society set in the future, where people are conditioned from birth through means of hypnopaedic process, classical conditioning and other means of manipulation, to follow a prescribed set of orders. Whether the book was a response to some of the social changes that were happening in the 1930’s like the effect of depression, the political surge of communism, the mass effect of over organization is an interesting question that one can examine. But I wanted to focus on how the citizens of the world state are stripped of their individuality. The book is a depiction of a world where people don’t have an individual identity. What does in Huxley’s views are the forces that strip individuals of their selfhood? What are some values which are essential to one’s identity? How is a collective identity formed and reinforced in this society? These are one set of question that I am interested in. Another important aspect of this society is the drug soma. It is used as a stimulant which produces within the user a state or euphoria. The World Controller use it to keep the people in check, and to prevent them from thinking. And the popular form of entertainment in this state is going to the feelies. Feelies is a cinematic viewing experience where the viewer is fully engrossed in the film, much like how the 3d movies function in our culture. I want to explore how feelies (and soma) function in creating their identities?

Some possible sources that will help me in further my research would be to look up some historical commentary on what it meant to be a citizen during that time and how those views shaped what it meant to be an individual? One source that I have identified is “Huxley’s Feelies: The Cinema of Sensation in “Brave New World”” by Laura Frost. In this essay Frost delves into Huxley’s views on cinema, and how he thought it was going to shape “the mind of England.” The introduction of sound in cinema raised a lot of moral and ethical questions and physical effects that the new cinema would have on mass audiences. In his essay “Where are the movies moving” Huxley describes how the sound and the effect of “moving images” puts the viewer in a hypnotic state, who is then susceptible to mind-manipulation. His horror to the cultural transformation of the movie industry can be traced in the way the World State uses different form of mind manipulation to keep its citizen as order-obeying robots. I want to find some criticism of cinema by popular cultural figures and put their views in conversation with Huxley.

The main aim of my project is to try to show how identity/selfhood is a historical and cultural creation. By understanding what Huxley considered indispensable to individual identity, I hope to show how his views are a product of the historical conditions of the time. There has been a lot of work done on the way Huxley’s dystopian world is influenced by Freudian pleasure principle. I want to pay more attention and show that social and cultural beliefs of Huxley are tied to his conception of selfhood.


3 Responses to “Research Proposal”

  1. Brandon Hernandez on November 24, 2016 5:30 am

    Like what was discussed during the research session, your topic is something new and is definitely headed somewhere but where it’s direction is going is a bit blurry, for now. All I could think of while reading this what social cognitive theory which has a variety of different aspects to it, maybe some background on that might help.

  2. Radheeka Sharma on December 22, 2016 5:45 pm

    I think you have a great interesting topic. I like your aim in trying to show how identity and selfhood is a historical and cultural creation. You have some very interesting questions that i think

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