The Canvas and the Maze: Deconstructing Wall and Frontier in Contemporary American Science Fiction


Chiara Grilli
Independent scholar

The Canvas and the Maze: Deconstructing Wall and Frontier in Contemporary American Science Fiction

Abstract: Science Fiction has always been used to analyze society through the construction of parallel worlds. Likewise, Denis Villeneuve’s movie Arrival (2016) and the TV series Westworld (2016) challenge respectively the evocative symbol of the wall and the old myth of the American frontier, thanks to the fruitful possibilities of representation offered by the Sci-Fi  genre. While in Arrival the wall is turned into the first tool of communication between two cultures, in Westworld the myth depicting America as the land of opportunity connects with that of the frontier and the search for new lands, intended here not as outdoor places, but more importantly as inner spaces. Beside their mystifying power, what connects these two works is a more complex concept of time and of identity: thanks to the screen and the maze, and, as a consequence, thanks to interrelation and introspection, the self is allowed to wander through time, through visionary predictions of the future and hallucinatory mirages of the past, which give the individual the chance to re-build his/her own life story.

Keywords: Science Fiction, Wall, American frontier


Science Fiction; Wall; American frontier

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Published : 2018-12-30

GrilliC. (2018). The Canvas and the Maze: Deconstructing Wall and Frontier in Contemporary American Science Fiction. Review of International American Studies, 11(2). Retrieved from

Chiara Grilli
independent scholar  Italy

Chiara Grilli is an independent scholar. She earner her PhD in Linguistic, Philological, and Literary Studies at the University of Macerata (Italy) in April 2018. In her doctoral research she problematizes the controversial relationship between the individual and collectivity in Italian America culture. In particular, she investigates the transgenerational evolution of the representation of the first Italian immigrants to the U.S. to identify the main signs and motifs connecting and disconnecting the self-narratives enshrined in autobiographies, novels, and movies from first-, second-, and third-generation Italian Americans. However, she is also fondly interested in Science Fiction, comic books, and pop culture in general. She has published articles and essays about Robert Viscusi's Astoria, Dana Gioia's Nosferatu, the functions of Opera in Italian American literature and cinema, The Sopranos, and Science Fiction.

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