An important question concerning literary studies is the circulation of literary works beyond their place of origin. Many other aspects must also be taken into consideration, such as the asymmetric positioning of authors and their work in international circulation, which is conditioned by the relative position of languages and cultures in the global market. This volume focuses on literary and cultural circulation and includes essays that explore this topic through case studies, analysing works and authors from diverse literatures and cultures, and discussions of the theoretical issues surrounding circulation and all that it entails: temporality, place, method, material objects and concepts.
16 In Search of a Land of Happiness: Utopia and Its Discontents (Zhang Longxi)
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16 In Search of a Land of Happiness: Utopia and Its Discontents
It is perhaps safe to say that the pursuit of happiness is a ubiquitous and universal desire as no one in any society would not wish to live in a better condition than what is available in reality here and now. The desire for a better life in a better place, for a land of happiness, is perhaps one of the most basic human desires that has found many expressions in various forms – a paradise, a Golden Age, a Shangri-La, an ideal society or – generically speaking – a utopia. It is perhaps a desire that truly lasts through all times, dall’antico al moderno, and manifests itself in many literary traditions. Utopian fiction may be said to constitute an important genre in world literature. “The essential element in utopia is not hope, but desire –the desire for a better way of being,” says Ruth Levitas in concluding her study of various definitions and forms of utopias (Levitas 1990: 191). Indeed, a simple folksong dating back to the remote past of Chinese antiquity more than two thousand years ago, a poem included in the Confucian classic, Shi jing or the Book of Poetry, already gives expression to such a desire, the search for a “land of happiness.” The first stanza of that poem reads:
碩鼠碩鼠，Big rat, big rat, 無食我黍。Don’t eat my grains. 三歲貫女，I’ve fed you three years, 莫我肯顧。And nothing...
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