'Into the Blue Depths' — Glass Mysticism in Yvegeny Zamyatin's 'We'

Jones, Luke (2018) 'Into the Blue Depths' — Glass Mysticism in Yvegeny Zamyatin's 'We'. In: Sublime Cognition — London Science Fiction Research Community Conference 2018, 14-15 September 2018, Birkbeck, London. (Unpublished)

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Abstract / Description

Read for its conventional cognitive value as mise-en-scene, the glass city of OneState in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s ‘We’ (1924) reflects the novel’s totalitarian fantasy of social uniformity and dystopian total surveillance. However, the unfolding narrative reveals a more ambiguous lens, through which the contradictions of the protagonist D–503 are magnified and brought to crisis. The glass city is simultaneously a transparent hive, apotheosis of Taylorist processes of ‘optimisation,’ and a vast prismatic crystal, focussing sublime light onto the narrator’s incipient romantic sensibility.

The dual nature of glass mirrors a broader avant-garde fissure in art and architecture. For functionalists, its value consisted in neutrality, efficient transparency and the ‘hygienic’ transmission of sunlight into interiors. But for an earlier ‘activist’ tendency (particularly in Germany) its capacity for colour-shifting, lensing and refraction were spurs to a re-enchantment of the quotidian and an intensification of mystical experience.

This paper explores two key elements of Zamyatin’s glass city — the prismatic geometric blocks of the city itself, and the encircling ‘green wall’ that surrounds it — considering glass rationalism and mysticism, and their relationship to utopian planning as a process of metaphysical ordering.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Zamyatin, Yevgeny, 1884-1937. We (1924)
Subjects: 600 Technology > 690 Buildings
700 The arts; fine & decorative arts > 720 Architecture
800 Literature & rhetoric > 890 Literatures of other languages
Department: The School of Art, Architecture and Design
Depositing User: Thomas Jones
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2019 09:38
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2019 09:38
URI: https://repository.londonmet.ac.uk/id/eprint/4569


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