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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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1. Dystopia, Anti-utopia & Co. Another Modest Proposal1

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1. Dystopia, Anti-utopia & Co. Another Modest Proposal1

A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. (Wikipedia)

The distinction between dystopia and anti-utopia has always been rather vague and confusing, to the extent that there is an evident tendency to use the terms anti-utopia and dystopia interchangeably, the formula being “dystopia, or anti-utopia,” “a true anti-utopia, a dystopia” (Elliott 1970: 97), or “antiutopia (or, more neutrally, dystopia)” (Schäfer 1979: 287). The same unifying tendency is exhibited by Jean Pfaelzer who views dystopian fiction as “formally and historically, structurally and contextually […] a conservative genre” (Pfaelzer 1984:78) and regards both utopias and dystopias as “extended literary metaphors embodying theories about social change” (Pfaelzer 1984: 80). The dystopian narrative does not possess any meaning of its own, but reflects “the obverse of the author’s social intentions, picturing an “ideal” society of entropy and mindless obedience, satiation and decadence, ironically justified as more egalitarian, healthy, and attractive than the present one; the political hypothesis of the alternative society reverses the normative system of the utopian author” (Pfaelzer 1984: 80). Chris Ferns sees “dystopia – or anti-utopia” as a reaction against the traditional utopia which “both parodies and subverts the traditional utopian model as a means of satirizing and warning against some of the more alarming trends in contemporary society” (Ferns 1999: 15). In her study of Gulliver’s Travels, Chloe Houston declares that it “is...

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