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The Good Place

Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI


Edited By Florian Mussgnug and Matthew Reza

Utopian literature provides a compelling vision of epistemological and moral clarity: a dream of harmony and justice. But in an age of surveillance, utopia is also the nightmare of a perfectly controlled, sealed and monitored world that leaves no room for ambivalence or discretion. In The Good Place, leading scholars of comparative literature explore this tension and examine the richness and diversity of utopian writing, from the genre’s earliest manifestations to the present. Utopia is seen as a tenacious force of the human imagination: a desire for renewal that manifests itself in the tension between social reality and the virtual worlds of unlived possibility. Notable for its engagement with a wide range of texts from different periods and national traditions, this book invites the reader to rethink ‘the good place’ from the specific perspective of literary studies and suggests that utopia, in the realm of fiction, is more than just a philosophical abstraction. Mediated by the experience of authors, characters and readers, utopian literature offers a transient but genuine experience of perfection, beyond the horizon of everyday lived experience.
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← viii | ix → Acknowledgements


This book has been inspired by the eleventh annual edition of Synapsis: European School for Comparative Studies, which took place in Siena in September 2010. We are grateful to all contributors, who have responded enthusiastically to our invitation, and to those who have read the individual essays that make up this book. We would like to thank the founders of Synapsis, Roberto Bigazzi, Laura Caretti and Remo Ceserani, and the members of the 2010 executive committee: Silvia Albertazzi, Federico Bertoni, Stefano Bonchi, Simone Brunetti, Michele Campanini, Giovanni de Leva, Orsetta Innocenti, Donata Meneghelli, Simona Micali, Francesca Montanino, Sara Nocciolini and Luca Raimondi. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to the International Network for Comparative Humanities (INCH) and its three co-directors, Laura Caretti, Maria DiBattista and Barry McCrea, for their encouragement and for the financial assistance they have provided.

We are grateful to Hannah Godfrey, our editor at Peter Lang, and to Mette Bundgaard, Alessandra Anzani and Mary Hartley Charlton, who have seen this manuscript through to press. The cover image was very kindly provided by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This book could not have been written without Simona Corso, who has, as always, been a source of kind and firm support. We are grateful to the colleagues and friends who make every edition of Synapsis an exhilarating cultural and human experience. Within this large and diverse community, Paolo Zanotti will always have a special place. Anybody who had the pleasure of meeting Paolo will...

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