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Utopian Visions and Revisions

Or the Uses of Ideal Worlds

Artur Blaim

The book focuses on different uses of the concepts of utopia, dystopia, and anti-utopia. The author analyses literature, cinema, and rock music, as well as scientific and legal motifs in utopian fiction. He also considers the functions of Jewish characters in early modern utopias and looks at the utopian aspects of scientific claims of literary and cultural theories. Utopian models are also applied to the practice of literature (socialist realism) and current socio-political affairs. Among the texts and films discussed are "Utopia", "New Atlantis", "Gulliver’s Travels", "Memoirs of Signor Gaudentio di Lucca", "Nineteen Eighty-Four", "A Minor Apocalypse", "Lord of the Flies", and "Even Dwarfs Started Small".

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The twenty studies constituting this volume individually and collectively illustrate the practical uses of the concept of utopia ranging from theoretical questions, through analyses of particular texts and common themes, to more general applications in domains bordering on literary and political studies. What joins them together is not only the general label of utopia understood here as “the imaginary reconstitution of society” (Levitas 2013), but also a common method of reflection combining elements of close reading, cultural semiotics, and constructivist approach to the study of literary and cultural phenomena.

The book begins with two theoretical studies devoted, respectively, to a radical reconsideration of the traditional definitions and applications of the term anti-utopia and different possible uses of the concept of metonymic utopia. The second section presents a set of what I considered to be the fundamental questions to be answered when approaching More’s Utopia followed by a “revisionist” look at More’s book viewed in the light of the empirical study of literature based on radical constructivism, and the analyses of three early modern utopian texts (Thomas Lupton’s Siuqila, Simon Berington’s Memoirs of Gaudentio di Lucca, and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels). Part three comprises two studies of late twentieth-century dystopian novels: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Fadwa Malti-Douglas’s Hisland: Adventures in Ac-Ac-ademe) discussed in terms of their intertextual links with the tradition of utopian/dystopian literature as represented by Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. In part four, the centre of interest shifts to the...

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