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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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“One loves the girl for what she is, and the boy for what he promises to be”: Gender Discourse in Ernst Bloch’s Das Prinzip Hoffnung

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← 246 | 247 → CAITRÍONA NÍ DHÚILL

This essay investigates the ways in which the discourse of desire is gendered in Ernst Bloch’s seminal work of utopian philosophy. The dynamic, forward-striving movement of utopian desire is often figured in Bloch’s work as a force which acts upon the world, creating from it a home fit for human habitation. Bloch’s philosophy focuses on the tension between the human and the natural: he emphasizes the complementary double movement of the “humanization of nature” and the “naturalization of man” (1:149, 234).1 Instances of anticipation of this move, and analogies for the utopian desire which is its precondition, are variously located and identified by Bloch, and one important location is the erotic. I argue here that there is a tendency in Das Prinzip Hoffnung to figure desire in heterosexual male terms. The analysis of Bloch’s language offered in the essay helps unravel the relationship between Bloch’s understanding of desire and the gender categories he inherits from a cultural tradition dating to the early modern period and transformed, but not negated, by Romanticism. The fact that woman is figured by Bloch as a space of anticipation, “an expectant landscape” (2:934) raises several questions: to what extent is utopian space feminized in Bloch’s work, and what does this gesture owe to its converse, the Romantic utopizing of the feminine? Bloch’s references to the feminine deserve closer attention than they have hitherto received in Bloch scholarship, as they may illuminate the extent...

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