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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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Vasco Pratolini’s Neighbourhood as Utopia


← 202 | 203 → GIOVANNI DE LEVA

In Plato’s Republic, to understand what justice is, Socrates uses the mythopoesis of polis: ‘“Then”, I said, “let us begin and create in idea a polis […]; come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes”’ (Republic, II, 369d and 376d). Similarly, in Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), Raphael tells of Utopia in order to argue for the abolition of private property and to show his listeners what ‘Patterns might be taken for correcting the errors of these nations among whom we live’.1 Even if understood in the strict sense as a representation of a perfect society, Utopia comes from a story, from the narration of a myth used to validate philosophical research and to affect reality.

In this sense of a model mediated through narrative, rather than as an image of an idealized reality, the concept of utopia can be applied to Vasco Pratolini’s work,2 in particular to the chronotope of the neighbourhood or ‘quarter’. Through the concept of the quarter, Pratolini does not represent a perfect society, without thought of history and conflict, but rather proposes a viable community model to post-war Italy.3 I will try to show how in Il quartiere (1944), Le ragazze di San Frediano (1949) and Metello (1955), the ← 203 | 204 → quarter also shares some key features with the classic Utopia: the separation from the rest of the world, the supportive social structure,...

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