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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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6. “The Thing which is not.” Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Gulliver’s Travels16


6. “The Thing which is not.” Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Gulliver’s Travels16

He pays no court to the passions; he excites neither surprise nor admiration; he always understands himself, and his readers always understand him: the peruser of Swift wants little previous knowledge; it will be sufficient that he is acquainted with common words and common things; he is neither required to mount elevations nor to explore profundities; his passage is always on a level, along solid ground, without asperities, without obstruction. (Samuel Johnson on Jonathan Swift)

Anti-utopian fiction is commonly regarded as a characteristically twentieth-century phenomenon. Indeed, the twentieth century has produced a considerable number of anti-utopian novels, several of which, such as Zamyatin’s We or Huxley’s Brave New World or, have entered the literary canon. However, the beginnings of anti-utopian fiction can be traced back to a much earlier date. Several anti-utopian motifs and devices can be observed already in More’s Utopia, but the first work to make use of the structurally dominant anti-utopian motifs is Swift’s Travels to Several Remote Regions, better known as Gulliver’s Travels, often discussed as a utopian work, mainly on account of Book IV depicting a visit to Houyhnhnmland, traditionally considered as a primitivist utopia offering a desirable alternative to the organisation of the narrator’s (and the author’s) world.17 Thus, whilst most of Gulliver’s Travels is interpreted as a satirical exposition of what is wrong with the human society, Book IV tends to be regarded as offering a positive...

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