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The Utopia Reader

The Utopia Reader

Gregory Claeys
Lyman Tower Sargent
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 434
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  • Book Info
    The Utopia Reader
    Book Description:

    Utopian literature has given voice to the hopes and fears of the human race from its earliest days to the present. The only single-volume anthology of its kind, The Utopia Reader encompasses the entire spectrum and history of utopian writing-from the Old Testament and Plato's Republic, to Sir Thomas More's Utopia and George Orwell's twentieth century dystopia, Nineteen Eighty-Four, through to the present day.The editors of this definitive collection demonstrate the various ways in which utopias have been used throughout history as veiled criticism of existing conditions and how peoples excluded from the dominant discourse-such as women and minorities-have used the form to imagine empowering alternatives to present circumstances.An engaging tour through the dissident, polemic, and satirical tradition of utopian writing, The Utopia Reader ultimately provides a telling portrait of civilization's persistent need to imagine and construct ideal societies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9039-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Utopianism generally is the imaginative projection, positive or negative, of a society that is substantially different from the one in which the author lives. The wordutopiaoroutopiawas derived from Greek and means “no (or not) place” (uorou,no, not;topos,place). Thomas More (1478–1535), inventor of the word, punned oneutopia,or good place, and we have since addeddystopia,or bad place. Thus, the primary characteristic of the utopia is its nonexistence combined with atopos—a location in time and space—to give verisimilitude. In addition, the place must be recognizably good...

  6. TWO Utopianism before Thomas More
    (pp. 6-76)

    Although Thomas More created the form of the modern utopia, he was not the first to write a utopia. Indeed, better places have been described at least since the earliest forms of writing, and many such descriptions are clearly the result of earlier oral traditions. The earliest utopian works are myths of a golden age or race in the past and earthly paradises like Eden.

    Christianity is one of the dominating influences in the development of utopianism. It contains strong utopian currents that flow like a torrent into secular utopianism. The originality and importance of Christianity in the utopian tradition...

  7. THREE The Sixteenth Century
    (pp. 77-103)

    The sixteenth century saw the creation of the utopian genre of literature and the redevelopment of the noble savage as an important theme. The most important book in this new genre was, of course, Thomas More’sUtopia(1516).

    The pivotal point in the creation of British utopianism and the beginning of the formal genre of utopian literature was the 1516 publication in Latin in Louvain of Thomas More’sLibellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivius de optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deq[ue] nova Insula Vtopia. TheUtopia,as it fortunately has become known, produced imitators almost immediately. The words utopia and...

  8. FOUR The Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 104-140)

    The first utopia published in the seventeenth century,Mundus alter et idem(1605) by Joseph Hall (1594–1656) is a burlesque of writers of voyages and of the encyclopedists. It is a general satire on human failings and can be thought of as an allegory, though to today’s readers it is primarily entertaining. Hall wrote theMundusand his other satire,Virgidemiae(1597–1598), early in life. They attack the same things he attacked in his religious writings—the new and the extreme.

    In theMundus, Hall attacks a wide range of human foibles by presenting them in their most...

  9. FIVE The Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 141-181)

    In the fourth book of Jonathan Swift’sGulliver’s Travels, “A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms,” Lemuel Gulliver visits a country in which the dominant natives are horses. The other main inhabitants are the brutish, human-shaped Yahoos.Gulliver’s Travelsgave rise to an entire subgenre of literature, loosely known as Gulliveriana, in which a traveler visits one or more countries inhabited by speaking animals or odd humans.

    I have related the Substance of several Conversations I had with my Master, during the greatest Part of the Time I had the Honour to be in his Service; but have indeed...

  10. SIX The Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 182-311)

    The most important group of intentional communities in the United States was established by the Shakers, or the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. The Shakers (Shaking Quakers) originated in the English midlands (Bolton, north of Manchester) in the 1750s. The central figure in the early development of the Shaker movement was Ann Lee (originally Lees, 1736–1784), later known as Mother Ann, who became leader of the group after having been jailed in Manchester in 1772 and 1773 for violating the Sabbath. She taught that sexual intercourse was the cause of all human suffering and, hence, preached...

  11. SEVEN The Twentieth Century
    (pp. 312-420)

    Because of the central role played by texts such as Yevgeny Zamiatin’sWe(1924), Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World(1932), and George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty-Four(1949), the twentieth century is generally known as the dystopian century. While the dystopia certainly played a central role in twentieth-century utopianism, the century began with positive works by H. G. Wells and has, since the mid-1960s, seen the publication of many positive utopias.

    H. G. Wells was the most prominent and prolific utopian author of the early twentieth century and was one of the founders of modern science fiction. A number of his novels—...

  12. About the Editors
    (pp. 421-422)