Comparative Perspectives on Utopia - Proceedings of Synapsis: European School of Comparative Studies XI
Utopia ante litteram
← 144 | 145 → GIOACHINO CHIARINI
It is, as a rule, hazardous to apply to ancient culture concepts, principles of criticism and modes of thinking, which are linked to the emergence of modern ideas and movements, and therefore clearly set apart by time (the modern age) and space (Europe). In the case of utopian philosophy and narrative, however, the risk is somewhat reduced. We may consider the foundational text of this tradition, Thomas More’s Utopia, from the point of view of its sources and models, many of which have been acknowledged by scholarly consensus. As More himself underlined, some of his sources are contemporary but many belong, importantly, to classical antiquity. Through these texts, it is possible to map the formation of ‘utopian’ ideas and stories over the many centuries that preceded the fundamental contribution by Henry VIII’s lord chancellor.
With regard to contemporary models and sources, and taking for granted the influence of the humanist movement, More’s relations with Erasmus of Rotterdam are of particular importance, as is testified by a range of shared interests (including a specific predilection for Lucian), by Erasmus’ thought-provoking and liberating Moriae Encomium (1509, dedicated to Thomas More), and by the fact that the Dutch humanist edited the publication of Utopia (1516).
Contemporary travel narratives were inspired by the lively and keen spirit of discovery of the times, and the works of Amerigo Vespucci deserve special mention in this context. In the second of the Quattuor Americi Vesputii navigationes (published...
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