American Nightmares

American Nightmares

Dystopia in Twenty-First-Century US Fiction

Valentina Romanzi


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«Valentina Romanzi’s study is a welcome addition to the body of scholarship on dystopia, utopia science fiction, and speculative fiction. It provides a comprehensive and updated review of the complex and rich debate on the question of genres and subgenres, while at the same time offering a fresh perspective. Eloquent and very well written, this volume reveals America’s fascination with catastrophic future scenarios, including the post-apocalyptic, delving into the issues that surround critical dystopia, progress, hope and fear. The close readings offer lucid, insightful interpretations of texts that range from SF literary ancestor, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Margaret Atwood’s award winning The Testaments, sequel to the acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale

(Eleonora Rao, Università degli Studi di Salerno)


This volume investigates dystopia in twenty-first-century US fiction. Using a methodological framework based on sociology, it theorizes a correlation between the crisis of the Frontier myth and of American exceptionalism and a renewed interest in dystopian worlds.


Part One illustrates the methodological framework, exploring the concept of dystopia, offering an overview of the American myths and of their current status and spotlighting some relevant sociological theories.


Part Two applies the proposed methodological framework to four texts, investigating the sub-genres of political, technological and environmental dystopia. The primary works, chosen to show both the relevance of the abovementioned American myths to dystopian narratives and the pervasiveness of the genre across the media, are Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments (2019), Dave Eggers’s The Circle (2013), David Cage’s video game Detroit: Become Human (2018), and the Hughes Brothers’ 2010 movie The Book of Eli.


Valentina Romanzi:

Valentina Romanzi is Adjunct Professor of English literature and culture at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and of English at the University of Verona, Italy. She holds a PhD in Transcultural Studies in the Humanities from the University of Bergamo. She specializes in contemporary popular culture, with a particular focus on utopias, dystopias and (post-)apocalyptic fiction. In 2021, she published Contaminazioni. Un approccio interdisciplinare, a collection of essays co-edited with Alessandro Secomandi and Danilo Serra. She is an editor at Iperstoria. Journal of American and English Studies.