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Utopia: An Elusive Vision

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Thomas More's Utopia remains indisputably the most potent work in the genre of writing that it initiated and in fact named. Since it was published in 1516 - in a Tudor-ruled England responding to the wave of humanist thought sweeping across Europe - this fantasy voyage has inspired centuries of social reformers, who have embraced More's fiction as a realistic blueprint for a new, ideal society. On the literary side, writers from Jonathan Swift to George Orwell have plied the genre More invented, and yet none has ...
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Overview

Thomas More's Utopia remains indisputably the most potent work in the genre of writing that it initiated and in fact named. Since it was published in 1516 - in a Tudor-ruled England responding to the wave of humanist thought sweeping across Europe - this fantasy voyage has inspired centuries of social reformers, who have embraced More's fiction as a realistic blueprint for a new, ideal society. On the literary side, writers from Jonathan Swift to George Orwell have plied the genre More invented, and yet none has arrived at a conclusion more prophetic than the original: that the dogged quest for an imagined ideal generates doubt that this ideal would be as attractive in practice as in theory, and that, given what we know of human nature, such an ideal could ever be implemented. In Utopia: An Elusive Vision Alistair Fox places More's masterwork in the context of the reform aspirations of early-sixteenth-century European humanists, tracing the stages of its composition to show how and why the book came to be inherently paradoxical and showing us why the book in many ways presaged the rise of Martin Luther and the watershed Protestant Reformation. Fox lucidly explores the complex, equivocal nature of More's vision, which, he contends, was conditioned not only by More's recognition that people's desire for ideal social order conflicts with many of their most basic impulses but also by his propensity for seeing most issues simultaneously from contradictory perspectives. This paradox and tension led More to create a fiction that, according to Fox, allows human imperfection to interrogate the validity of the "ideal" society the fiction presents, without confirming or subverting it. With Utopia More encourages readers to explore what he reveals to be a perpetual dilemma in utopianism itself. Fox concludes that, by thus encompassing and provoking the full range of reactions that subsequent utopias and "dystopias" would likely elicit, More's Utopia is both the prototype a
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805785708
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1992
  • Series: Twayne's Masterwork Studies Series, #103
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Note on the References and Acknowledgments
Chronology: Sir Thomas More's Life and Works
Literary and Historical Context
1 Humanism and Reform 3
2 The Importance of the Work 11
3 Critical Reception 15
A Reading
4 Approaching Utopia 27
5 "O Sacred Society!": The Eutopia within Book 2 39
6 Incursions of Doubt: Irony and Satire in Book 2 52
7 Confidence Restored: Religious Faith in Utopia 66
8 More's Dilemma: The Context and Argument of Book 1 77
9 "Si quid sit in ambiguo": The Inconclusiveness of Utopia 91
10 More's Equivocal Masterpiece 106
Notes 108
Bibliography 114
Index 125
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