I explore how utopian was an extraordinary word that became ordinary, a particular term that became general, and a reference to a physical place that became an idea.
Utopian Voices
More's Utopia, like the humanist ideology it represents, celebrates dialogue—it is probably not going too far even to say that the fiction fetishizes dialogue. And yet, the depiction of Utopia is notably monological, for reasons that bear on both humanism of this moment and on the emergence of prose fiction as a vehicle for ideological critique.
The Hiddenness of the Open Road
In his dissertation "Medial Situations and Generic Possibility in the Long Eighteenth Century," Colin Moore argues that the picaresque fiction is predicated on a basic communicative situation that he calls "an encounter with a stranger," and that this condition in turn determines the nature of time and space in such a fiction. That is, each episode is a "one-time" event, and the landscape of the fiction is a ribbon of road on which the narrator and the reader cannot stop or go backward.
The Sound of Liberty
In his reply to my recent blog post, Joel Burges raises an important question: does the new imaginative thinking about history I find in recent literature and cinema also mean a "return to liberalism"?
Hidden Things in Utopia
Thomas More's Utopia (1516) is an odd but inescapable model for early modern European and transatlantic prose fiction, including the first novels. In the next few weeks I will reflect here on how an aspect of More's fictional commonwealth has a predictive power over later fictions: that is, what cannot be seen, done, or said in Utopia.