The lecture will discuss Čapek’s creative exploration of dystopian social and political contexts in plays such as R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots, 1920), From the Life of the Insects (1921), and The Makropulos Case (1922), together with his 1936 novel The War with the Newts; and will compare and contrast this with the imaginative procedures adopted in Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949), and Neil M. Gunn’s The Green Isle of the Great Deep (1944). While it could be argued that it is Čapek’s German-language Czech contemporary Franz Kafka whose fiction seems to speak pointedly to the dystopic modern world that developed after Čapek’s death during and in the years immediately after World War Two, the lecture will suggest that it is Čapek himself whose writings anticipated and now speak most convincingly about the increasingly critical problems we face in the man-made machine world of the twenty-first century.
Margery Palmer McCulloch’s recent books include Modernism and Nationalism (2004), Scottish Modernism and its Contexts (2009), and the co-edited Edinburgh Companion to Hugh MacDiarmid and Scottish and International Modernisms (both 2011). She was co-editor of Scottish Literary Review from 2005-2013. She is currently Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Glasgow University and Leverhulme Emerita Fellow 2013-2015 researching towards a biography of Edwin and Willa Muir and their Scottish and European contexts.