Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
Edited By Florian Mussgnug and Matthew Reza
The Bourne Identity: On Utopian Psychopathology
← 52 | 53 → MATTHEW BEAUMONT
THE MAN: I don’t know who I am. Do you know who I am? Do you have any idea who I am?
—TONY GILROY, screenplay for The Bourne Identity(dir. Doug Liman, 2002)
The contemporary critical consensus about Looking Backward, by far the most successful utopian fiction of the nineteenth century in both commercial and political terms, is that, like other prominent examples of the form, it is emotionally flat and lacking in affect.1 Krishan Kumar has for example remarked that, of all the utopian fictions discussed in his compendious, authoritative account of Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times, ‘Bellamy’s is in fact the least interesting, considered as literature.’2 This view falsifies Edward Bellamy’s fascinating socialist fantasia. Its protagonist, after all, does not make an untroubled transition to the society of 2000, as criticism of the book conventionally assumes. In fact, Julian West suffers something like a trauma in time-travelling to the future. West’s psychology is a disturbed one that raises fascinating questions about the stability ← 53 | 54 → of the human subject under the peculiar temporal conditions of utopian imagining. Bellamy reinvented the utopian form in part by conceptualizing it as the psychological portrait of an individual who becomes dislocated from time; from both the present he half escapes and the future to which he is half assimilated. Looking Backward is a study of time out of joint. ‘That story of another world’, writes the narrator of one of Bellamy’s...
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