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The Spectre of Utopia

Utopian and Science Fictions at the "Fin de Siècle"


Matthew Beaumont

In the late nineteenth century, a spectre haunted Europe and the United States: the spectre of utopia. This book re-examines the rise of utopian thought at the fin de siècle, situating it in the social and political contradictions of the time and exploring the ways in which it articulated a deepening sense that the capitalist system might not be insuperable after all. The study pays particular attention to Edward Bellamy’s seminal utopian fiction, Looking Backward (1888), embedding it in a number of unfamiliar contexts, and reading its richest passages against the grain, but it also offers detailed discussions of William Morris, H.G. Wells and Oscar Wilde. Both historical and theoretical in its approach, this book constitutes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the utopian imaginary, and an original analysis of the counter-culture in which it thrived at the fin de siècle.


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Acknowledgements xi


Acknowledgements I would like to thank the following people for encouragement and advice of one kind or another: Roberto Bigazzi, Mark Bould, Rachel Bowlby, Sebastian Budgen, Laura Caretti, John Carey, Mary Critchley, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, David Feldman, Joachim Fischer, Kate Flint, Vincent Geoghegan, Rosalyn Gregory, Michael Grif fin, Andrew Hemingway, Tatiana Kontou, Benjamin Kohlmann, the late Sally Ledger, Ruth Levitas, Judith Luna, Fabian Macpherson, Chris Marsh, Josephine McDonagh, China Miéville, Katie Moylan, Tom Moylan, John Mullan, Florian Mussgnug, Tony Pinkney, Sheila Rowbotham, Christabel Scaife, Joy Sleeman, Lyman Tower Sargent, Will Self, John Sutherland, John Timberlake, Anna Vaninskaya, Pete Ward and Sarah Willburn. Several anonymous referees have read either the indi- vidual pieces that make up this volume or the book proposal I sent to Peter Lang, and I am grateful to them for their comments. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Chambers Fund of the Department of English at UCL for the financial assistance it has provided. I am indebted to the editors and publishers of a number of books and journals who have given me permission to republish material, in some cases heavily revised, which has previously appeared in print. I have drawn either in part or in their entirety from the following articles and chap- ters: ‘Introduction’, in Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000–1887, ed. Matthew Beaumont (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), vii–xxx; ‘Shopping in Utopia: Looking Backward, the Department Store, and the Dreamscape of Consumption’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts 28 (2006), 191–209; ‘The...

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