University of Leicester
2022McCartneyPTPhD.pdf (1.57 MB)

The Recollector and On Dystopian Fiction and Memory

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posted on 2022-10-20, 11:16 authored by Paul Taylor-McCartney

This PhD submission comprises a novel of 60,000 words entitled The Recollector which is accompanied by a Reflective Commentary of 20,000 words that focuses on the theme of memory in dystopian fiction. The novel is narrated by Amos Blythe – a fortysomething male with a rare psychological condition that means he has almost total recall. As an epidemic emerges across the UK, with a high proportion of the working-age population presenting symptoms of memory dysfunction, Amos finds himself in direct conflict with those around him and a country that begins to focus on the present, rather than its past.

The accompanying commentary reflects on the role of memory in dystopian fiction, in relation to my own creative practice and its critical and literary contexts. The opening chapter ‘Imagine if you can …’ discusses elements of writerly craft involved in the production of a dystopian novel and includes a review of some of the key literature that helped shape not only my thinking but also the narrative of The Recollector. The next chapter, ‘Genre Recall’, traces the antecedents of the dystopian novel, and suggests that genre itself possesses a memory of its own, requiring the writer to engage in various ‘recall’ processes when they set out to create an original work in that genre. It critically appraises a range of primary and secondary material and contains a series of reflections on how this has shaped my understanding of working in a genre, with a particular focus on the importance and function of memory. The final chapter, ‘Hideous Progeny’, examines the use of science and technology by authors in the dystopian genre, again, with a focus on memory. I argue that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) qualifies as the first dystopian novel to contain a direct warning about the dangers of unchecked human ‘progress’ whilst being set in a world recognisable to readers at the time.

I conclude that full engagement with the critical literature has informed some fundamental decisions I made on the creative side of the thesis but also helped refine my skills as both author and reflective practitioner.



Jonathan Taylor

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Arts

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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