Ricarda Vidal - Visual Culture

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Alternative Worlds: Blue-sky Thinking since 1900

Co-edited with Ingo Cornils
Oxford: Peter Lang, December 2014.

In an attempt to counteract the doom and gloom of the economic crisis and the politicians’ overused dictum that ‘there is no alternative’, this interdisciplinary collection presents a number of alternative worlds which were thought up over the course of the last century. While change at macro-level was the focus of most of the ideological struggles in the 20th century, the real impetus for change came from the blue-sky thinking of scientists, engineers, architects, sociologists, planners, and above all, writers, who imagined alternatives to the status quo. Following a roughly chronological order from the turn of the 19th century to the present, the book  explores  the dreams, plans and hopes, but also the nightmares and fears reflected in utopian thinking in the Western hemisphere. The alternative worlds at the focus of the individual essays can each be seen as crucial to the history of the past one hundred years. While each reflects its particular moment in time, they also inform historical developments in a wider sense and continue to resonate in present culture. Instead of presenting mere mind games, building and the concrete realisation of the dream are crucial to all of them – whether that means the restructuring of the earth itself, the construction of the perfect city, the creation of an alternative society on Earth or on Mars, or the physical preservation of youth. The tension of dream and reality, of fact and fiction, which characterises all of these utopias is also represented in the interdisciplinarity of the volume which brings together contributions from the sciences and the arts.


Table of Contents


Ricarda Vidal/ Ingo Cornils: Introduction


Part I: Shaping the Earth and Sea

1. Ricarda Vidal: Atlantropa: One of the Missed Opportunities of the Future

2. Daniel Garcia-Castellanos/Ricarda Vidal: Alternative Mediterraneans Six Million Years Ago: A Model for the Future?

3. Philip E. Steinberg/Elizabeth A. Nyman/Mauro J. Caraccioli: Atlas Swam: Freedom, Capital and Floating Sovereignties in the Seasteading Vision


Part II: The 1960s – Building the Future

4. Patricia Silva McNeill: The Last ‘City of the Future’: Brasília and its Representation in Literature and Film

5. Elena Solomides: The Post-War High-Rise: Promise of an Alternative World

6. Christopher Daley: ‘The landscape is coded’: Visual Culture and the Alternative Worlds of J.G. Ballard’s Early Fiction


Part II: Alternative Lives

7. Maya Oppenheimer: Designed Surfaces and the Utopics of Rejuvenation

8. Boukje Cnossen: The Alternative World of Michel Houellebecq

9. Susanne Kord: From the American Myth to the American Dream: Alternative Worlds in Recent Hollywood Westerns

10. Marjolaine Ryley: Growing up in the New Age: A Journey into Wonderland?


Part IV: Outer Space

11. Peter Dickens: Alternative Worlds in the Cosmos

12. Ingo Cornils: Between Bauhaus and Bügeleisen: The Iconic Style of Raumpatrouille (1966)

13. Rachel Steward: Blue Sky Thinking in a Post-Astronautic Present.