Order Shall Prevail: The Ideology of the British Empire through Steampunk Goggles

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This thesis investigates a contention that has encouraged vigorous debate in the steampunk community. Authors such as Nevins, Greyshade, and Killjoy maintain that most of second-wave steampunk has lost its ‘punk’, its politically subversive edge. Others, such as Perschon consider this to be incorrect, stating that first-wave steampunk was never consistently punk to begin with and that many second-wave steampunk works refute this accusation. This thesis contributes to the debate as it analyses the first-wave steampunk novel The Difference Engine and compares it to the second-wave steampunk videogame Dishonored. The question asked is how ideological elements of British Imperialism as represented within Gibson & Sterling’s steampunk novel The Difference Engine compare to the manifestation of these elements within the steampunk videogame Dishonored. Contrary to the common view, my expectation is that the videogame is more politically engaged and subversive due to influences of its medium and the contemporary debates concerning orientalism, feminism, and the downsides of Empire. This hypothesis is not borne out. Nevertheless, Nevins’ accusations that second-wave steampunk is not politically engaged will prove to be too strong. Signifier theory, symptomatic readings, and affordance theory, amongst others, will show that the second-wave steampunk production Dishonored still hosts some political subversiveness in its procedural systems, rules, and gameplay.
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