Studies in a Literary Genre
ROBERT C. ELLIOTT Preface (1970)
Just as in utopia it is easier to specify what has been avoided than what has been achieved, so it is easier to say what this book is not than what it is. It is not a history of utopias. Although the essays herein take into account most of the best-known literary utopias, including negative ones, and some fairly obscure examples of the kind, there is no attempt whatever at histori- cal coverage. Ideology is not the central concern here either, although any study of a genre so imbedded in social and political issues must have its own ideological biases. I have not tried to conceal my own deep ambivalence about utopian modes of thought. The essays that follow are of two kinds: interpretive studies of indi- vidual literary utopias and genre studies of the utopian mode itself. They are connected by certain thematic interests that run through the book. One of the themes is structural and, I suppose, functional; it has to do with the relation of utopian literature to satire: the use of utopia as a strategy of satire, the distribution of positive and negative elements in the two genres. Gonzalo’s utopian speech in The Tempest ref lects the theme in part: I’ the commonwealth I would by contraries Execute all things; for no kind of traf fic Would I admit; no name of magistrate; Letters should not be known; riches, poverty, And use of service, none … All things in common nature should produce Without sweat or endeavour;...
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