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The Shape of Utopia

Studies in a Literary Genre


Phillip E. Wegner

Upon its original publication in 1970, Robert C. Elliott’s The Shape of Utopia influenced both some of the major scholars of an emerging utopian and science fiction studies, including Darko Suvin, Louis Marin and Fredric Jameson, and authors of new utopian fiction ranging from Ursula K. Le Guin to Kim Stanley Robinson. The book establishes a deep genetic link between utopia and satire, and offers scintillating readings of classic works by Thomas More, Jonathan Swift, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Aldous Huxley and others. It charts the rise of an insidious «fear of utopia» that comes to characterize the first half of the twentieth century and investigates some of the aesthetic problems raised by the efforts to portray a utopian society, before concluding with brilliant speculations on the emerging practice of «anti-anti-utopia» – the reinvention of utopia for contemporary times. This Ralahine Classics edition also includes a new introduction by Phillip E. Wegner which situates the book in its context and argues for its continued significance today; a 1971 review of the book by the late author of utopian science fiction, Joanna Russ; and an opening tribute by one of Elliott’s former students, Kim Stanley Robinson.


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Acknowledgements ix KIM STANLEY ROBINSON A Tribute to Robert C. Elliott (2012) xi PHILLIP E. WEGNER Introduction (2012) xiii ROBERT C. ELLIOTT Preface (1970) 1 CHAPTER 1 Saturnalia, Satire, & Utopia 5 CHAPTER 2 The Shape of Utopia 21 CHAPTER 3 Swift’s Utopias 37 CHAPTER 4 Hawthorne and Utopia: The Blithedale Romance 51 CHAPTER 5 The Fear of Utopia 63 viii CHAPTER 6 Aesthetics of Utopia 77 CHAPTER 7 Anti-Anti-Utopia: Walden Two and Island 97 APPENDIX – JOANNA RUSS Untitled Review (1971) 115 Notes 119 Index 131

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