Anti-utopian Mood, Liminality, and Literature

From International Literary Experience to Georgian.

by Irma Ratiani (Author)
©2020 Monographs 132 Pages


The book deals with the problem of anti-utopian way of thinking in literature, its preconditions, and variations in the 20th century. Moreover, it is a first attempt to read one of the most prominent Georgian texts – Jakho’s Dispos-sessed by the Georgian writer Mikheil Javakhishvili – in the context of anti-uto-pian thinking. The book aims to present how relevant 20th century Georgian literature is to this literary trend. Research was conducted in the frame of comparative studies. The book offers a comprehensive analysis of Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and Bend Sinister, and Jakho’s Dispos-sessed by Mikheil Javakhishvili.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One. Literary Anti-Utopia and the General Trends of Its Development
  • 1.1. Utopia. Ou Topos or Eu Topos?
  • 1.2. Utopia and Anti-Utopia– from Ambivalent Unity to Conceptual Determination
  • 1.3. The Philosophical and Literary Predecessors of Anti-Utopian Genre
  • Chapter Two. Theoretical and Methodological Approaches toward the Study of Literary Anti-Utopia
  • 2.1. Evolution of Genre Theory and the Holistic Method
  • 2.2. Genre Peculiarities of Anti-Utopian Text
  • 2.3. Time-Space Hypotheses, and Anti-Utopia in Eschatological Perspective
  • 2.4. Liminality and the Liminal Theory of Conceptualization of Time and Space
  • Chapter Three. Liminal Models of Chronotope in 20th-Century Eschatological Anti-Utopia
  • 3.1. The Subjective Paradigm of Conceptualization of Time
  • 3.2. Liminal Models of Artistic Time and Space and Their Genre-Determining Function
  • 3.2.1. Invitation to a Beheading
  • 3.2.2. Bend Sinister
  • 3.2.3. Jaqo’s Dispossessed
  • Brief Conclusions
  • References
  • Index


This book was published in Georgia in 2006. After more than ten years, I’ve encouraged myself to make an English version of the book and offer it to the international reader. This could not have been achieved without the help and support of my colleagues and family. I would like to take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation toward them: editor of the Georgian text – Merab Gaganidze, my dear friend and Professor of Tbilisi Free University, also, reviewers – Professor Rusudan Tsanava, Prof. Inga Milorava and Prof. Konstantine Bregadze.

Special thanks to late Ariann Tchanturia to whom this book is dedicated, the first translator of all my scholarly articles and books, a talented and humble man, who was devoted to his job and professional responsibilities.

It is my pleasure to express special gratitude to the Publishing House, Tbilisi State University, for their support in the first Georgian publication of the book in 2006.

Special thanks should be extended to my respectable colleague Sadao Tsukui, professor of Osaka University in the 1990s, whose support was utmost in the beginning of this project as well as the process of international presentation of separate parts of the book. His opinion and recommendations were essential.

And in the end, I would like to thank my dear husband, Kakhaber Kordzaia, for being patient and supportive throughout all the years that I worked on this book.


One of the reasons why I have decided to raise the problem of literary anti-utopia is a professional responsibility to the still unspoken, at least – widely, part of the history of Georgian literature. In 1920, right after the Bolshevik annexation, the country itself, including its culture and literature, was forced to follow the new rule. Georgia had entered the era of “realized Utopia” and tasted all the “charm” of the brutal Communist regime. Certainly, due to the ideological pressure, the cultural and literary processes in the country were disjointed and disordered. Not everyone could have resisted the ongoing political process with their creative work, but those who managed to do so were violently punished. Among them was the classic of Georgian literature – Mikheil Javakhishvili, a writer who chose freedom of creativity over slavery. He worked with great success on the verge of High Modernism and Realism and was able to give a depth of anti-utopian mood to his main text – “Jakho’s Dispossessed" (“Jakhos Khiznebi”). This novel reveals the versatility of the writer’s work and puts Georgian literature of that period on par with European and World literature, where the anti-utopian mood as well as the formation of rebellious characters against the hateful order has been started. Consequently, this book is a first attempt to read one of the most prominent Georgian texts in the wide context of anti-utopian thinking.

Definition of literary anti-utopia, its genre specificity and peculiarities, is one of the important problems of contemporary literary studies. Expansion of literary research in this direction was caused by a highly significant characteristic of this problem: the essential role and function of anti-utopian thinking have been clearly demonstrated in the formation of art and literature of the 20th century.

The study of anti-utopian novel, as a distinct but important literary structure, was started in the 1940s–50s. Since the 1980s, the interest toward it grew up and literary anti-utopia fairly moved into the midpoint of contemporary literary criticism. It is noteworthy that the researchers’ attitude toward the problem, from the very beginning, was distinguished by certain ambiguities. For some critics, the definition of a literary anti-utopia was identified with the notion of political conjuncture and bore propagandistic character, whereas for others it was beyond the narrow political framework and acquired the status of a full-fledged aesthetical model. The basic reason for this disagreement, I believe, was an ideological position: if in the Soviet criticism the anti-utopian mood was a synonym for ←11 | 12→the breakdown of Communist harmony1, in the Western criticism it was perceived as a necessary attribute of the 20th century’s cultural context2. Later, in the process of breaking ideological clichés, post-Soviet literary criticism joined the global trends of anti-utopian researches3.

Another reason for the disagreement was and still is a genre status of anti-utopia – whether it is an autonomous literary genre or not. If some critics consider it as an autonomous literary genre4, others approach the issue more cautiously5. This reason for the disagreement never was and is not connected with an ideology, but just with a different methodological approach toward the literary anti-utopia. I support the last opinion and, accordingly, in this book, anti-utopia will be considered an autonomous literary genre. I will attempt to prove my opinion with the help of a holistic approach toward the anti-utopian genre as well as with the in-depth analyses of chronotopic models and their functioning in the anti-utopian text. Both methods are also intended to allow me ←12 | 13→to highlight a specific model of literary anti-utopia – the Eschatological Anti-Utopia. Theoretical opinion will be strengthened by the comprehensive analyses of particular literary texts, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and Bend Sinister and Mikheil Javakhishvili’s Jakho’s Dispossessed.

My desire to bring together the two outstanding writers of the 20th century has its reasons. One of those writers is an international celebrity and the other is a victim of the “unread problem” of small literatures, such as Georgian, and their unification under the umbrella of anti-utopia strengthens the authority of anti-utopia as a large-scale literary phenomenon and provides with an opportunity to expand the history of a particular literary genre in the direction of Georgian literature.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (June)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 132 pp.

Biographical notes

Irma Ratiani (Author)

Irma Ratiani is a Georgian scholar and translator. She is a professor at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (Georgia) and the chair of the Depart-ment of General and Comparative Literary Studies. She is a director of Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature and Honorable President of Geor-gian Comparative Literature Association (GCLA).


Title: Anti-utopian Mood, Liminality, and Literature
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134 pages