Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
Edited By Florian Mussgnug and Matthew Reza
Alternate History: Travels to Elsewhen
← 110 | 111 → SIMONA MICALI
What if the Nazis had won World War II? And if Columbus had not discovered the Americas? And how much would world history have been changed if Alexander the Great had not died so young? The answers to these and similar questions, whatever they are, imply an imaginary deviation from history as we know it; they compel us to speculate on a different historical development: what did not happen but could have happened. To define this kind of imaginative speculation, the French philosopher Charles Renouvier coined the term ‘uchronia’ from that of utopia: meaning – as the title of his work demonstrates1 – a utopia placed in time instead of in space, enclosing an imaginary portion of historical time instead of an imaginary portion of geographic space.
As a subgenre of literary utopia and science fiction, uchronia – also called ‘allohistory’, ‘counterfactual history’ or ‘alternate history’2 – offers ← 111 | 112 → a particularly interesting starting point for a critical reflection on utopia. In fact, if spatial utopia sets up a world which is completely separate from the one we live in, temporal utopia – uchronia – links the imaginary world to the real one. This can be accomplished in two ways. In the first case, the imaginary world is envisioned as a possible future version of our own world, which gives rise to the many futuristic utopias and dystopias of science fiction – starting with L’An 2440 (1770) by Sébastien Mercier, who is generally considered the inventor of this...
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