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Roads to Utopia Interlude: From Renaissance to Victorian Barnita Bagchi More and Renaissance Utopia: Recapitulations ---Interest in exploration, voyages,

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Presentation on theme: "Roads to Utopia Interlude: From Renaissance to Victorian Barnita Bagchi More and Renaissance Utopia: Recapitulations ---Interest in exploration, voyages,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Roads to Utopia Interlude: From Renaissance to Victorian Barnita Bagchi More and Renaissance Utopia: Recapitulations ---Interest in exploration, voyages, new lands (see linking of the tale with Amerigo Vespucci’s voyage) ---Tremendous interest in politics and government: both in their corruptions or intrigues or sordidness, and in their capacity to transform human life positively ---Critique of inequality of wealth, of private property. ---Religious freedom and plurality advocated. Religion should not inflame or cause sedition.

2 More’s Utopia: Recapitulations Plays with the question of how seriously we could take the work. Plays with comparisons between contemporary England and Utopia: distorting mirrors? Human happiness is the goal. Considers deeply work and leisure. Love of the expanding boundaries of human knowledge. Many contradictions: for example, war. Hierarchical.

3 Other Major Utopian Writing 1500- 1660 In its own way, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a utopian/ dystopian play. In post-colonial readings, Prospero is the magician-king-colonizer, Caliban, the colonized, is made to slave for this colonizer. There is a conspiracy involving the ‘baser’ characters in which a vulgarised version of utopia is articulated.

4 Other Major Utopian Writing 1500- 1660 Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun (1623). Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626) Campanella’s is a theocratic state where women, goods, and children are held in common. Christian imperialist sub-theme. In Bacon’s island, the brightest and best are trained in Salomon House in the scientific and experimental method, which Bacon championed.

5 After More Four main historical stages in evolution of utopian writing (Claeys and Sargent, p. 3) Religious radicalism in 16 th and 17 th centuries produce egalitarian schemes, giving importance communal property-holding, from Spartan and Christian points of view. Socialism. English Revolution of the 17 th century (beheading of Charles I)—radical sects such as Levellers and Diggers. Voyages of ‘discovery’ from the 16 th century—debates about the virtues and vices of ‘primitive’ peoples. (Shakespeare’s The Tempest—Caliban, the primitive man, for example) Scientific discovery and technological innovation holding out the promise of a far better (or far worse!) life. Science fiction and its associates as bearers of utopian and dystopian impulse. French and American Revolutions: aspirations for greater social equality, utopian promise of revolution and new lands. USA, Australia. Small new utopian communities: an explosion of them in the US. Owenite, Fourierist communities in 19 th century. Kibbutz. Hippie communities. Squat communities in the Netherlands…

6 We Need to Add Others Missing from the earlier picture are Women Colonized. Colonized indigenous peoples e.g. Native Americans and Aborigines in Canada, USA, and Australia. And many other categories, such as sexually marginalised groups. Women, and the colonized acquired powerful voices, and wrote powerful utopian fiction. E.g. Herland, Sultana’s Dream.

7 Enlightenment Utopia 1660-1800, broadly speaking, is the period of the European Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason, science, progress, and order. Utopian and dystopian writing of this period include Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. This is satirical. Using races of huge, little and idiotic men (Brobdingnag, Lilliput, Yahoos), Swift savages many aspects of contemporary human society. His ideal a race of rational horses, the Houyhnhnm?

8 Enlightenment Feminist Utopia Sarah Scott, Millenium Hall (1762), for example. A group of women banding together in a country-estate, with a common vision of welfare, helping the poor, infirm, and disabled, income- generation for such people. A project led by gentlewomen, who have had to leave their families because of despotic fathers, horrible stepmothers, impossible marriages… A male voice, a visitor into the community, offers approval. A feature in Herland too.

9 Industrialization and Utopia/ Dystopia The Industrial Revolution, late eighteenth- century to late nineteenth-century. Massive transformation in ways people work, produce things. Transformations also in rhythms of life. Transitions from the rural, agrarian-based economies to the worlds of ever-multiplying cities.

10 Industrializing Nineteenth Century Hotbed of Utopianism This is the period when people try to put into practice utopian communities, when movements that Marx called ‘utopian socialism’ flourish, when people write thoroughly fascinating anti-industrial utopia like News from Nowhere.

11 Romantic Utopia To understand Morris, a poet such as William Wordsworth, a Romantic poet, is useful. Wordsworth made the northerly Lake District of England into a real-life utopia through his poems. Rooted, enduring, rural and pastoral forms of life. Sheep and shepherds, primal dignity and innocence. In contrast to the huge wealth and huge poverty, the disparities and churning, exploitative chaos of urban industrialization.

12 Shakers, Fourierists, Owenites, Saint-Simonians… A host of radical socio-political movements such as the three mentioned above try to formulate utopian schemes, communities, houses, and lands. All have some form of socialistic inclination. Various kinds of radical sexual experimentation in some cases, such as the Saint-Simonians. Co-operative production. Radical Christianity: Shakers. Among their most enduring productions are the wooden furniture they produced.

13 Victorian? Reign of Queen Victoria in Britain. 1837-1901 British Empire at its zenith. Socialism also flowers, in many different versions. Morris’s utopian socialism, Marx’s scientific socialism. Marx lives in London during the Victorian period! The Communist Manifesto (1848) is today considered a utopian text par excellence.

14 Feminisms Develop in the period Between 1850 and 1930 Globally. In the USA, in India, in Egypt. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a journalist, an activist, and a feminist in the USA during this time. Writing in newspapers, periodicals, publishing books pamphlets… In India/ South Asia, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, younger than Gilman, is also a writer in journals and reviews, founder of a school. Women who craft their own lives, and in a sense attempt to live out utopia. We have come a long way from More to Morris to Hossain. Utopian writing as key embodiments of social transformations and change.



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