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Genetik i fiktion
Linköping University, Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture, Department of Culture Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2006 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This licentiate’s thesis is concerned with how genetics is depicted and used in fictional stories. From a perspective that combines science and technology studies with cultural studies, it analyses narratives that deal with, or contain images of, genetics and gene technology. The empirical material consists of four narratives, two movies and two novels: Andrew Niccol’s film Gattaca (1997), Ang Lee’s film Hulk (2003), Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake (2003), and P.C. Jersild’s Swedish novel Geniernas återkomst ("Return of the Geniuses", 1987). The thesis has two main parts, where the first part introduces theories and perspectives on biology and narrative, whereas the second part presents the four analyses of fictional narratives.

The first part is divided into two sections. Section one is concerned with biology (primarily molecular biology), ideals of objectivity, and the relation¬ship between science and technology. I argue for a perspective where science and technology are intimately interwoven, especially in the case of the “new biology”. This section defines the concepts of genetics and gene technology, a definition that relies more on how the concept of gene is used in the analysed narratives than the scientific discipline of genetics. Then follows in the second section a discussion of narration and fiction, two cen¬tral concepts in this thesis. With the aid of structuralist literary studies, the process of narrative production and meaning making is described, and an argument is made for viewing fiction as a quality of narratives rather than a genre of its own.

Part two is also made up of two main sections. In the first of these, the four narratives are analysed separately. The narratives are viewed as examples of different perspectives on fictitious genetics: Gattaca is analysed as an exam¬ple of a genetically governed society, Hulk as a genetically manipulated individual, Oryx and Crake exemplifies the genetic apocalypse, and Genier¬nas återkomst depicts a future society where genetics has been out¬dated, banned and expelled. The second part analyses genetics and gene technology as narrative devices. Here, the four narratives are no longer separated. In¬stead, they are compared and used to exemplify a number of sometimes contradictory narrative uses of genetics and gene technology. The narratives make use of both public understandings of science and technology and the complexity of modern biology and biotechnology to balance credibility and the fantastic. Six main functions of genetics are identified in the narratives, some of wich are functions of negotiation – like the negotiations between the credible and the incredible, between threat and opportunity, between control and the loss of control, between micro and macro, and between nature and technology. Other functions are based upon genetics and gene technology being described – and understood – as both new and having potentially pro¬found consequences for society and human¬kind. In the end, genetics in fic¬tion turns out to have very little to do with genetics and gene technology as scientific discourses. Instead these sciences seem to be used because of their complexity and aura of both “cutting-edge” sciences and “code of life”, in order to negotiate a number of narrative problems and oppositions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Tema Kultur och samhälle , 2006. , 119 p.
Skriftserie / Tema, Kultur och samhälle, Linköpings universitet, ISSN 1653-0373 (print), 1654-143X (online) ; 2006:2
Keyword [sv]
Genetik i massmedia, Narration, Fiktion, Teknik och kultur, Vetenskap och kultur
National Category
History of Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-7923ISBN: 91-975663-3-0OAI: diva2:22831
2006-11-01, Stora seminarierummet, Strykbrädan, Laxholmen, Norrköping, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2007-01-17 Created: 2007-01-17 Last updated: 2010-01-26

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