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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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Nature as Definitive Utopia, or the End of the Subject


← 130 | 131 → FRANCESCO GIUSTI

Nature has always had a particular status in our culture: compared to any human creation, it has an ontological and epistemological priority, maybe even superiority. However, in order to transcend it people have to participate in the natural order, and the desire for nature is the desire for something not-made, not created by people.1 In this sense it is the essential utopia, a space where people could live naturally without artifice and mediation. But is this really feasible?

The uncertain status of humankind within the created world, both inside nature, as a part of it, and outside, as its interpreter, is an essential part of Western culture. Myths expressing the desire for an ideal harmony between humankind and nature, such as the Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, the Golden Age and also the modern scientific stories of the boy or girl growing up among wolves or apes, show the extent to which this problematic relation is profoundly felt in Western society which seems to progressively leave nature apart and create a second nature for its own survival. But the survival of this successful creation does not easily coincide with a meaningful existence.

Nature is not a product of human techne, it is something we participate in but as partially external observers who both share its inner biological processes and, at the same time, are called to explore and understand it as an object of knowledge. We must learn how...

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