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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice

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Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Across Time and Space: The Utopian Impulses of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker

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← 230 | 231 → MICHAEL J. GRIFFIN AND DARA WALDRON

One of the standard descriptions of a utopia is that it is “a nonexistent society described in detail and normally located in time and space” (Claeys and Sargent 1). The same could be true of the utopian impulse, except that an impulse (or an anxiety generated by an impulse) can best be represented in time and space when it is allegorized. One of the problems surrounding Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker relates to its fidelity to the novel upon which is it supposedly based: Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky bothers. The film is only tenuously linked to the talkative, noirish science fiction (sf) of the novel, which provides very nominal parameters for the film’s allegorical meditations on time, memory, hope, and fear; other than that, the book’s plot recedes. For Tarkovsky:

the subject which the screenplay would be based on permitted one to express in a very concentrated manner the philosophy, so to speak, of the contemporary intellectual. Or rather, his condition. Although I must say that the screenplay of Stalker has only two words, two names, in common with the Strugatsky’s novel Roadside Picnic: Stalker and Zone. As you see, the story behind my film is rather disappointing. (Tarkovsky and Guerra online)

Fredric Jameson describes Stalker as an obscurantist and “lugubrious religious fable” (Geopolitical Aesthetic 92), and as such a debasement of the original. However, we suggest that what might be perceived as the lugubriousness of Tarkovsky’s...

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