Becoming Science Fiction: The Purport of an Evolving Genre

Zea Miller, Purdue University


This dissertation three-dimensionally reconstructs Hjelmslev’s glossematic matrix (composed of the following quadrants: content-form, content-substance, expression-form, and expression-substance) in conjunction with Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical concepts in order to reveal the purport of science fiction (SF). I create this theoretical apparatus in the introduction. The following four chapters then examine the content-form, expression-form, content-substance, and expression-substance of SF through a Deleuzoguattarian lens. First, I question how we recognize SF if it has both no essential details and an evolving identity. The chapter shows how recognition outweighs contingent features, thereby revealing socio-cognitive frames that buttress such recognition, and ultimately proposes a cognitive model for recognizing SF. Second, I advance an argument for a new generic paradigm for SF, whereby a narrative without chapters as a generic abstract machine can be deployed to differentiate all narratives, without defining them, while still allowing genres to define themselves, which refines the theoretical framework currently buttressing SF theory. Third, I examine Clarke’s The City and the Stars (1956) to advance our understanding of anoedipal bodies in the text and the fascist machines that give rise to them, which calls into question the continental death of the author who must make choices in an oedipalized world while creating one. Fourth, I explore the deployment, seizure, reclamation, and loss of power as functions of destruction across several SF texts while advancing and interrogating the implications through theory, the ultimate result of which shows that SF is becoming destructive. Finally, the conclusion synthesizes the content and expression forms and substances from the previous four chapters to reveal the purport of SF: a socio-cognitive capacity to recognize prototypes through generic gravity for a future of unavoidably oedipal technological enclosures where society has moved beyond a state of control to a crisis of destruction. The dissertation disrupts the dominant contemporary conception of SF as having an identity, or being, by committing it to the ontology of becoming. Such a re-conception frees SF from retrospective determinations. Essentially, this project enters the critical conversation on SF by proposing, first, to sidestep the need for generic determinations and, second, to accept it as an evolutionary process entangling cognition, parameters, creation, and trends.




Plotnitsky, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Modern literature|British and Irish literature

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