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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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Abbey of Thélème 19 see also Gargantua and Pantagruel Abensour, Miguel 119 fn. vii Again, Dangerous Visions (Ellison) xv Ames, Russell A. 124 fn. lxii An 2440, Le (Mercier) 84 anatomy xxii, 90 Anatomy of Melancholy (Burton) 48, 90, 123 fn. lvii animal rationale 45–6 anthropology xi, xv, xvi, 12 see also Lévi-Strauss, Claude; cold and hot societies; myth; Rattray, R.S. anti-utopia xix, xx, xxi, xxiv, xxviii, 119 fn. viii Elliott’s use of dystopia as synonym for xxi, xxv, 72, 116, 119 fn. vii see also critical utopia; dystopia and negative utopia; satire; utopia Ape and Essence (Huxley) xxiv, xxv, 85, 110 see also Brave New World; Huxley, Aldous; Island Apo ceremony 12, 13 see also carnival; Cronia; Feast of Fools; festival of the Sacaea; Kalends; Lord of Misrule; Saturnalia apologia 25, 47, 73, 83, 122 fn. xlvi Arcadia 9, 54, 55, 78, 80, 88, 113 see also Cockaigne, land of; earthly paradise; Fortune Isle; Golden Age; Happy Otherworld; Isles of the Blest Archaeologies of the Future ( Jameson) xiv, xxiii–xxiv Archilochos xi Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, The (Swift) 37 Aristophanes 18 Aristotle 60 Ashanti 12–13 Auden, W.H. 66 Augustine 24 Bach, Johann Sebastian 95 Bacon, Francis 9, 15–16, 35, 64, 121 fn. xxi see also New Atlantis, The Bakhtin, Mikhail xvi, 119 fn. v Barrett, William 77 Barth, John 90 Bataillon, Marcel 124 fn. lxv Bauhaus 70 Beard, Charles 114 behavioral engineering xxiii, 25, 41, 97–102, 104, 105, 106, 113, 128 fn....

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