English Utopian Fictions, 1516–1800
Chapter III Utopian Spaces and Places
The emergence of utopian fiction as a mode of European cultural and liter- ary practices, dif ferent from both a straightforward political treatise and authentic or fictional travel narratives incorporating a description of an ideal(ised) land can be visually represented as the projection of the vertical axis of the model of the world onto the horizontal one, and the translation, especially in the early period, of temporality into spatiality. The traditional opposition of heaven and earth involving the vertical opposition “top – bottom” is reinterpreted as the horizontal opposition “near – far.” Likewise, the temporal distance between the miserable present and the blissful past (Eden, the Golden Age) is translated into spatial categories, into a geo- graphical distance between temporally coexisting entities. Originally, this produces the idea of the Isles of the Blessed, the Earthly Paradise, and, later, the utopia. Such a development was possible only in a culture which based its conception of geographical space on the moral opposition of good, at first identified with one’s own land and people, and evil, represented by alien lands and their inhabitants, after the rise of Christianity, generally identified with opposition between Christendom and pagan lands. In the Renaissance, the immediate frame of reference was provided by the travel narrative which, having become one of the most popular genres, at first followed the traditional moral geography.1 136 Chapter III Utopian boundaries In travel narratives the space is usually divided into two parts with the sea as the boundary between them. The spatial opposition...
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