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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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12. Cities Are Falling. Images of the End and Their Uses in Dystopian Fiction


12. Cities Are Falling. Images of the End and Their Uses in Dystopian Fiction

And the Lord caused to rain down upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord, from heaven. And He turned over these cities and the entire plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the vegetation of the ground. (Genesis 19: 24–25)

Utopia tends to define itself as locus amoenus, its opposite, dystopia, with very few exceptions such as Zamyatin’s We, constitutes locus terribilis identified by a set of standard motifs associated with evil in a variety of forms, degeneration, decay, poverty, ruins, and extreme ugliness. In English literature, the traditional topos of a ruined or decaying city present since Anglo-Saxon times (“The Ruin”), has been put to mostly religiously, socially or politically motivated uses, from boosting the ubi sunt message, through emotionally charged social criticism in the nineteenth century novel, to dystopian and post-apocalyptic landscapes of twentieth and twenty-first century fiction and cinema.

In English dystopian literature the first comprehensive representation of an urban dystopia appears in Private Letters From An American in England To His Friends in America (1769), later republished as Anticipation (1781). The general decline of the imaginary nineteenth-century England is exemplified by dilapidated cities, reflecting social, political and religious disintegration of the state and society. The narrator’s first impressions (“Plymouth made so melancholy and forlorn an appearance through my glass, that I had no heart to enter it” /Private Letters 10/)...

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