Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Andrew Taylor


This thesis traces the inter-relation between human/machine hybrid figures, imagination and “human” subjectivity through the early science fiction of H. G. Wells, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, E. M. Forster's “The Machine Stops” and Karel Čapek's R.U.R.. It demonstrates how the “human” operates in a state of flux, in parallel with its environment which both defines and is defined by the “human.” I argue that all four writers use social satire and machine tropes to explore and critique the effects of industrialization upon, and the tension between, society as a whole and the individual in society. I argue that in The Time Machine, When the Sleeper Wakes, The First Men in the Moon, We, and “The Machine Stops,” Wells, Zamyatin and Forster create worlds where technocratic authorities apply science to create closed-system, totalitarian states. The thesis explores how these authors privilege creativity as crucial to “human” existence and use fantasy to create future societies critical of industrialization’s dehumanization of the individual. In these early twentieth century texts, network models are interrupting the clockwork. If one applies N. Katherine Hayles’ pattern/randomness dialectic, emergent human behaviours are noise disrupting the rigid pattern of the closed-system state, causing it to assume a higher complexity. In the late twentieth century, Donna Haraway, and others, wrote against technocratic authority’s employment of network models, focusing upon cybernetics. Yet prior to World War Two, Wells, Zamyatin, Forster and Čapek also wrote against technocratic totalitarianism, centring their fiction upon mechanical engineering and the machine (rather than information theory) to create versions of industrial/mechanical man. Thus, this thesis demonstrates that Haraway’s ‘cyborg’ is an echo of these earlier industrial anti-authoritarian figures—robots. The driving force in these narratives is the realization of technocracy’s application of science to completely control the individual, eliminate diversity and facilitate totalitarianism.

LCSH Subject Headings

Cyborgs in literature

Technocracy in literature

Dystopias in literature