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Notes on Nowhere: Feminism, Utopian Logic, and Social Transformation

Jennifer Burwell
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Notes on Nowhere
    Book Description:

    Using contemporary feminist science fiction, Jennifer Burwell examines the political and literary meaning of utopian writing and thought. “Notes from Nowhere makes an original, significant, and persuasive contribution to our understanding of the political and literary dimensions of utopian writing.” --Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8663-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. 1 Locational Hazards: The Utopian Impulse and the Logic of Social Transformation
    (pp. 1-46)

    InCritique, Norm, and Utopia,Seyla Benhabib identifies the anticipatory/utopian pole within theories of social transformation as that which gives us our normative grounding and sense of a moral imperative, that which allows us to make qualitative judgments and to construct an orientation toward the good. In this way, Benhabib associates the Utopian impulse with what Ernst Bloch calls our “principle of hope”—our ability and desire to imagine something other and better than our existing conditions. At the same time, however, the Utopian impulse is characterized by a set of conservative logics and gestures that are increasingly seen as...

  6. 2 Turning Inward: Strategies of Containment and Subjective/Collective Boundaries in Traditional Utopian Literature
    (pp. 47-86)

    Depending upon the point of view from which the ideal collective is conceived, the political effect of the narrative practices that support the traditional form of utopian literature can vary dramatically. In the first part of this chapter, I examine how utopian logic operates in traditional works of utopian literature that express a more or less socialist agenda; in the second part, I explore a novel in which this traditional utopian literary form has been adapted to reflect and support a contemporary feminist vision. My study of the utopian literary tradition in this chapter is not intended to be exhaustive;...

  7. 3 Speaking Parts: Internal Dialogic and Models of Agency in the Work of Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler
    (pp. 87-130)

    Possessing a disempowered position within society, oppressed groups need something more than a stabilizing of the social space that consolidates their position on the margins. The traditional utopian goal of projecting an ideal space free from ideological conflict, however, is incompatible with the goal of exposing and exploring the contradictions and double binds that inflect female subjectivity. If marginalized groups retain this strategy, challenges to the status quo tend to reproduce the logic of stable difference and create “utopias of reversal.” To the extent that contemporary feminists address the ways in which women have been denied the opportunity to establish...

  8. 4 Utopia and Technopolitics in Woman on the Edge of Time
    (pp. 131-164)

    Traditional utopian literature relates to the novel’s contemporary historical circumstances through a process of negation—contemporary society is present only as a repressed subtext, and visible only in the conceptual “antinomies” that the utopian text attempts to neutralize or resolve. In the previous chapter, I explored the effects that occur when, instead of repressing the connection between contemporary society and imaginary society (a repression that is designed to preserve the absolute “elsewhere” of utopia), a text actively foregrounds and thematizes the interaction between utopia and contemporary society. This increased interaction funds an “ideologeme of activism” within the text, while the...

  9. 5 Acting Out “Lesbian”: Monique Wittig and Immanent Critique
    (pp. 165-202)

    To this point I have examined how the position, structure, and deployment of a utopian “elsewhere” inflects relationships between individual subject and social body. I have discussed the connection between the traditional utopian form in literature (with its emphasis on harmony and purity, its projection of contamination; and its suppression of agency) and a conception of the subject based on principles of unity and self-consistency. I have discussed the consequences when feminist utopias accept the traditional utopian form’s grounding in a homology between the integrated individual body and the harmonious social space, and the possibilities that present themselves when writers...

  10. Conclusion. Moveable Locales: Narrating Unsutured Utopia
    (pp. 203-210)

    InSources of the Self,Charles Taylor observes that our orientation in moral space is similar to our orientation in physical space; this observation also holds true for our orientation in social and political space. Contemporary critical discourse, in particular, tends to construct social forces in spatial relations such as “inside versus outside” or “margin versus center.” Given this characteristic of contemporary political discourse, my interest in combining an analysis of feminist theory with an analysis of utopian literature derives not just from the explicitly political and didactic nature of utopian literature, but also from the way that Utopian literature’s...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-222)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 223-234)
  13. Index
    (pp. 235-238)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)