For my Independent Study Project I have chosen to look at the theme personal alienation in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I chose this topic because I believe that the subject matter is relevant to both our society’s recent history and its current circumstances. Our fast-paced culture, like the one in Fahrenheit 451, encourages people to deny the importance of critical thought and encourages personal isolation. Bradbury’s dystopian work provides an interesting analogy to the alienation and mindless consumerism of the internet age.
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In my essay I hope to prove that Fahrenheit 451, despite being a work of fiction, accurately predicts some of the alienating effects of modern media in our contemporary world. Fiction is often used to hold up a mirror to society and help people see things about their own lives that they would otherwise be blinded to. My hope is that by forming these connections it may be possible to also infer some practical solutions from his work, if only by pointing out social and individual choices that are best avoided.
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I intend to begin my project by briefly describing the dystopian future that Bradbury sets forth in his book, using secondary sources to strengthen my analysis of his work. After establishing a clear picture of these fictional social norms, I will attempt to draw analogies between the world that he has created and our contemporary culture. This will likely involve the use of primary source documents describing the alienating effects of modern media, which will be drawn from peer reviewed academic articles and books on the subject. My conclusion will try to extrapolate some practical solutions to combatting these unhealthy effects.
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I suspect that the most challenging aspect of writing this essay will be the research. Because my thesis crosses over into the fields of sociology and psychology rather than remaining purely literary in nature, I will have to draw from cross-disciplenary sources. Some tentative research into the existing literature leads me to believe that there is plenty of evidence to back up my claims, but choosing the right sources and bringing them together into an integrated whole will be a welcome challenge.
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Initial List of Works Cited
Altuntas, Eylem. “The Theme of Alienation in Two Dystopian Novels: Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451.” IIB International Refereed Academic Social Sciences Journal. Vol 4 (2013):
Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,
New Edition. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. 1953. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Cauvin, Nicole. “Alienation: The Modern Condition.” Sacred Heart University Review. Vol. 7
McQuail, Denis. “Sociology of Mass Communication.” Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 11
Moran, Meghan B. & Sussman, Steve. “Hidden addiction: Television.” Journal of Behavioral
Addictions. Vol. 2 (2013): 125-132.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Group, 1985.
Reveley, James. “Understanding Social Media Use as Alienation: a review and critique.” E-
Learning and Digital Media. Vol. 10 (2013), 83-94.
Weimann, Gabriel. Communicating Unreality: Modern Media and the Reconstruction of Reality. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2000.
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