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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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13. In Praise of Imperfection: Shakespeare’s Ambivalent (Anti)Utopianism

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13. In Praise of Imperfection: Shakespeare’s Ambivalent (Anti)Utopianism49

Yes, I know them all, and every one of them is a swindler, and the town a nest of rascals engaged in robbing one another. Not a man of the lot is there but would sell Christ. Yet stay: ONE decent fellow there is – the Public Prosecutor; though even HE, if the truth be told, is little better than a pig.

(Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls)

For a politically minded author who at least participated in the writing of a play devoted to Thomas More, it may seem strange and surprising that the word “utopia” does not make even a single appearance in his works, although the idea of the best state of the commonwealth is touched upon more or less explicitly in several of his plays.

It is Titus Andronicus, the most violent and in many ways the least political (in the narrow sense) of Shakespeare’s Roman dramas, that introduces what might be called the utopian moment of a possibly nonviolent revolutionary change empowering the people, who – unlike in later plays, especially Julius Caesar, where a similar opening situation occurs – are not yet reduced to a brainless, easily manipulated mass. Neither are the senators and tribunes governed by self-interest alone or concerned mainly with taking advantage of their privileged positions.

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