Genre Reinvention and Environmentalism in China Miéville’s <em>Un Lun Dun</em> as Critical <em>Un</em>-Topia

  • Camilla Del Grazia University of Pisa
Keywords: China Miéville, Portal-quest Fantasy, Critical Dystopia, Urban Environmentalism


China Miéville’s macrotext is strikingly marked (or even haunted) by a recurrent attempt to decode and reconceptualise the city through the lenses of science fiction and fantasy, thus paving the way for a deconstruction that simultaneously targets normative conceptions of genre and of the urban environment. His ‘young-adult novel’ Un Lun Dun (2007) is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Here, critical dystopia and portal-quest fantasy give rise to an alternative, heterotopic version of London, inextricably bound up with the ‘real’ city and at the same time totally distinct from it. In particular, by literalising the metaphor of dislocation, Miéville shows how some of the correctives to pollution found by modern metropolises are tied to issues of social hierarchy that actually hamper any long-term project regarding a more sustainable environment for the entire community. This paper aims therefore at identifying some of the strategies that underlie such a subversive reimagining. In particular, it looks into how the teleological trajectory of the portal-quest fantasy and its selection of static actants is problematised and upturned. Moreover, the creative use of figurative language in the novel is shown to establish a continuous parallel between London and UnLondon, while also questioning the primacy of the former over the latter. Finally, Miéville’s knowing hybridisation of forms and stances is seen as leading to an ‘un-topia’, a site of reinvention that opens the city up to new readings and interpretations.

How to Cite
Del Grazia, C. (2021). Genre Reinvention and Environmentalism in China Miéville’s <em>Un Lun Dun</em> as Critical <em>Un</em&gt;-Topia. Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 1, 133-152. Retrieved from
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