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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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10. Magic, Proto-Science and Science in Early Modern Utopian Fiction


10. Magic, Proto-Science and Science in Early Modern Utopian Fiction

Here the sky and the earth are married together; divine mysteries impressed upon the land are discovered; here men learn to regulate fire, make use of the air, value the water, and test earth. Here the ape of nature has wherewith it may play, while it emulates her principles and so by the traces of the large mechanism forms another, minute and most exquisite.

(Johannes Valentinus Andreae, Christianopolis)

Utopia is one of those modes of discourse that can be said to readily respond to (and absorb) contemporary developments in politics, economy, ideology, and other aspects of social life. It could be expected that in relation to scientific research its role would be particularly significant, as the conceptualisation of science as a new domain of cognitive/practical activity owes much to Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, especially since early utopian fiction is generally seen as a predecessor of what later came to be known as SF.35 However, although other early modern utopias abound in frequent, though hardly uniform or consistent, references to various inventions and miraculous devices, science plays an important role only in a handful of them. Consequently, detailed descriptions of scientific institutions and procedures, epistemological assumptions, or potential risks are very rare. Rather, the emphasis is put on the end-products, in which the achievements of science can hardly be distinguished from curious, strange, or magical objects encountered in the imaginary lands of the romance or...

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