Jun 25 2010
J. C. Hallman: Utopian Fiction
Eden Hexagonal Structure, photo by Eva Kröcher (image used under the terms of the GFDL.)
The history of utopian literature is very nearly the history of civilization. Lewis Mumford claimed in The City in History that the original utopias—those of Plato and Aristotle—were a reaction to the dystopia of Athens, upending the usual argument that dystopia is the result of utopian experimentation gone wrong. In fits and spurts, and in a variety of forms, utopian literature has played a central role in the advent of almost every significant ideology in history, from democracy to fascism. In the contemporary era, when literature seems increasingly disconnected from the real world, the books here offer a reminder that literature can, and perhaps should, seek to shape society.
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