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Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England

Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 380
  • Book Info
    Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England
    Book Description:

    With the emergence of utopia as a cultural genre in the sixteenth century, a dual understanding of alternative societies, as either political or literary, took shape. InUtopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England, Christopher Kendrick argues that the chief cultural-discursive conditions of this development are to be found in the practice of carnivalesque satire and in the attempt to construct a valid commonwealth ideology. Meanwhile, the enabling social-political condition of the new utopian writing is the existence of a social class of smallholders whose unevenly developed character prevents it from attaining political power equivalent to its social weight.

    In a detailed reading of Thomas More'sUtopia, Kendrick argues that the uncanny dislocations, the incongruities and blank spots often remarked upon in Book II's description of Utopian society, amount to a way of discovering uneven development, and that the appeal of Utopian communism stems from its answering the desire of the smallholding class (in which are to be numbered European humanists) for unity and power. Subsequent chapters on Rabelais, Nashe, Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, and others show how the utopian form engages with its two chief discursive preconditions, carnival and commonwealth ideologies, while reflecting the history of uneven development and the smallholding class.Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance Englandmakes a novel case for the social and cultural significance of Renaissance utopian writing, and of the modern utopia in general.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8299-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgmentss
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Chapter I. Utopian Differences
    (pp. 3-73)

    The first section of this chapter will formulate some basic generalizations about Utopia, the literary genre and the discursive thing. Section 2 will discuss some key aspects of Thomas MoreʼsDe Optimo Rei publicae statu deque nova Insula Utopia, first printed in 1516, usually just calledUtopia, and by most accounts, as by this, a founding generic work. The aim of the chapter will be to offer a view of Utopia, and a reading ofUtopia, which will situate them in the period covered by the essays that follow, the English Renaissance or early early-modern. I will begin by rehearsing...

  5. Chapter II. Carnival and Utopia
    (pp. 74-111)

    This chapter will address the relationship between the Renaissance utopia and that gamut of representational practices that has come to be called Carnival. Its contention will be that thereisa salient relation between these two things, however different they might at first appear (the one thing in the first place a literary genre, the other a set of popular conventions and customary practices). This relation, however, is not simply one of identity or subsumption (wherein the literary Utopia expresses one version of the ʻtopsy-turvy worldʼ projected by Carnivalesque practices, or vice versa), but rather one of peculiarly vexed and...

  6. Chapter III. Utopia and the Commonwealth
    (pp. 112-197)

    A strain of thought about Utopia, then, a Utopian line, exists in RabelaisʼsFour Books. Rabelais agitates against Utopia by returning it to Carnival, while at the same time using its form to test carnival-narrative itself, thus backhandedly conceding it a place and force. Now Rabelaisʼs encounter is chiefly with Utopia ʻproper,ʼ with the quality of Moreʼs peculiar Cokaygne, or in other words with Book II. In the English literary tradition, comparable stagings of the antagonism between Cokaygne and Utopia are not to be found till the later sixteenth century. But the rendering of society inUtopiaʼsfirst book did...

  7. Chapter IV. Sprung Desire and Groups in Flux: On the Politics of the Utopian Impulse in Marlowe and Shakespeare
    (pp. 198-237)

    The title of this chapter might well arch the readerly brow. Little has expressly been said about the politics of the Utopian impulse inUtopiaor other Utopian works of the period, so why should we now learn about it on the late Elizabethan stage? And why Marlowe and Shakespeare, rather than a few plays that might be called Utopian, or that conjure with Utopia?¹

    Yet if little has been explicitly said about the politics ofUtopiaor the history of the workʼs political reception, the argument offered ought nonetheless to have made it clear why politically interested readings of...

  8. Chapter V. Flights from the Tudor Settlement; or. Carnival and Commonwealth Revised
    (pp. 238-332)

    Thomas Nasheʼs reputation among Renaissance scholars seems to have declined over the last few years. In the older historicist understanding, he figured as a sub-canonical writer. He had not managed to find a narrative form in prose so significant as what the unquestionably canonical writers (Spenser and Shakespeare) discovered in poetry and drama. But partly because of that - or because his textsʼ relative incompleteness was the other side of a ceaseless, exuberant experimentalism - Nashe could count as a representative Elizabethan, and his various essays be read as raw or partly processed material, indicating in their very defects, and...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 333-370)
  10. Index
    (pp. 371-382)