1: More’s Utopia, ‘1516 to 2016’

One of the most important texts ever written in the early modern period, Thomas More’s Utopia has had an enormous effect on global literature, politics, and the so-called ‘western canon’ since its first publication in 1516 in Latin, and subsequent issue in English from around 1547 onwards. Many scholars credibly claim that More functionally ‘invents’ a type of thinking which we now describe as Utopian, imagining a strange elsewhere in order to learn something about our somewhere. Plato might dispute that, but it is undeniable that Utopia has entered our lexicon as a way of imagining how the world, and human society in particular, might work.

Food for Thought:
What advantages are there to creating a Utopian society and using it to critique the actual society you live in? What examples of utopian thinking in popular cultures today can you think of, and do these examples discuss any themes similar to those you found in Thomas More?

Required Reading:

The Open Utopia 2016 edition (free and open source) and critical introduction.

J.C. Davis, ‘Thomas More’s Utopia: Sources, Legacy, and Interpretation’ in Davis, Alternative Worlds Imagined, 1500-1700: Essays on Radicalism, Utopianism and Reality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 173-196.

Further Reading:

China Miéville, ‘Introduction’ to the Verso Utopia (2016).

Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘Essays’ accompanying the Verso Utopia (2016).

Terry Eagleton, ‘Utopias, Past and Present: Why Thomas More Remains Astonishingly Radical’, Utopian Studies, 27:3 (2016), pp. 412-417.

Gregory Claeys, ‘Utopia at Five Hundred: Some Reflections’, Utopian Studies, 27:3 (2016), pp. 402-411.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s