Utopia and Its Discontents traces literary representations of ideal communities from Plato to the 21st century. Each chapter offers close readings of key utopian and anti-utopian texts to demonstrate how they construct, challenge and explore the ideas and forms of earlier utopian writings and the social and political ideals of their own periods. In this original and insightful study, Sebastian Mitchell demonstrates how literary utopias are often as much about the past as they are about the present and the future. Utopia and Its Discontents concludes by arguing against the idea that the utopian has been eclipsed by the dystopian in contemporary culture.
Topics covered include:
- Early political and philosophical authors, such as Plato and Thomas More
- Literary works, from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four
- Speculative-fiction writers such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood
- Ecological and feminist texts by Ernest Callenbach, Ursula Le Guin and Marge Piercy
- Twenty-first century utopianism
This is an essential study for scholars and students of utopian literature.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 553 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
This is a readable but penetrating survey of the main trends in utopian literature from the ancients to the present. Mitchell engages enthusiastically with both the key utopian literary writers and the more intractable and ambiguous contributors to the tradition - the "discontents", some satirists, like Swift, some dystopians. Many of these are conceived as engaging with Plato above all; the tradition itself is glued together by Platonism. Mitchell writes with sympathy as well as authority about its leading authors. The main literary thinkers are all assessed, and there are some unusual but welcome guest appearances in the cast of characters too, notably by Thomas Carlyle, whose Past and Present has remained a long-neglected contribution to utopian ideas. Mitchell controversially suggests that a close proximity exists between utopian and dystopian modes of thought, but modern readers have increasingly warmed to this once-provocative notion. Yet to Mitchell the literary concept still has life and an enchantment about it which still enjoins new generations of readers to reconsider its implications. This is a thoughtful and welcome addition to utopian scholarship. * Gregory Claeys, Professor of the History of Political Thought, Royal Holloway University of London, UK *
Utopia and its Discontents is a thoughtful and lucid trans-historical study of literary utopianism from Plato to Margaret Atwood. It successfully explores the formal and generic aesthetics of literary utopias in a variety of case studies of prominent writers. The author reminds us that despite the dystopian turn of the twentieth and twenty-first century, the literary utopian 'expressiveness' is still going strong, if in varied and complex new forms. * Nicole Pohl, Professor of English, Oxford Brookes University, UK, editor of Utopian Studies *
From Plato's Republic to Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy, literary and philosophical visions of the good society have wrestled with the relationship between utopian dream and authoritarian control. Dystopian narratives might be popular right now but, as Mitchell insists in Utopia and Its Discontents, utopia is far from an abandoned mode of literary representation - indeed, it remains a vital imaginative resource in the 21st century. * Caroline Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Birkbeck, University of London and author of Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel *