Utopian Literature Background Notes

Utopian Dichotomies

Utopia v. (dystopia v. eutopia) ([tongue up] eú-to’pos, où-topos)
Authoritarian v. anti-authoritarian
technological v. anti-technological
extrapolative v. reversing

Representative Utopias

N.B.: a) shift of economic base (Classic: slaves; Renaissance: organization of labor; Industrial Revolution: machines; Modern Period: problematic); b) change of normative literary modes; c) modern participation, like Piercy’s Woman On the Edge of Time (1976), in literary tradition.

  1. Plato, Republic (c. 380 BCE): Guardians/philosopher-kings; based on the "necessary lie" and slave labor
  2. Thomas More, Utopia (1516): gold for mercenaries and chamber pots; everyone works; possibly ironic
  3. François Rabelais, "The Abbey of Thélème," Gargantua (1534): "Do what thou wilt"
  4. Valentin Andreae, Christianopolis (1619): medieval cities + Calvin’s quartered and moral Geneva
  5. Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis (1627): House of Salomon for scientists in a 1900-year line from Solamona (n.b.: Novum Organum, 1620)
  6. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888): State Capitalism & Industrial Army
  7. William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890); free, rich society of individuals who have no power over each other; medievalist reply to Bellamy
  8. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915): isolated, feminist, parthenogenetic utopia highlighting work, safety, and cooperation
  9. Karel Capek, R.U.R. (1920): the humanoids (robots) turn and kill their masters
  10. Eugene Zamiatin, We (1920): Sovietism in extremis: the United State allows privacy only during "sexual hours" & death is the penalty for non-conformity
  11. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): bottled babies, hypnopaedia, soma, fun sex, but no love; Savage can’t take it
  12. B. F. Skinner, Walden Two (1948): operant conditioning for perfect adaptation to communal life
  13. George Orwell, 1984 (1949): Newspeak, doublethink, & Winston Smith’s fear of Big Brother and rats
  14. Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974): "for the partner" on anarchist Anarres v. monopoly capitalist Urras