LITR 5439 Literary & Historical Utopias

Lecture Notes


preview former students






Sir / Saint Thomas More, Utopia (1516)


How like a novel? (genre)

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter


Utopia 2-3 scene, dialogue, narrative

+ Bakhtin: "meeting on the road"



compare to Plato's Republic


Two flashpoints:

private property and private family

are they related? That is, do we consider our family our property? note different treatment of men and women


private property

1.12 his safety consisted more in his people’s wealth than in his own

1.13d Plato contrives, Utopians practice . . . so different from our establishment, which is founded on property, there being no such thing among them

2.4c there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years end they shift their houses by lots


private family

29-30 2.2b [chicken family modifications

37 2.11 removing some of the children of a more fruitful couple to any other family that does not abound so much in them

40 2.13a child considers nurse as mother

42 2.16 the whole island is, as it were, one family




32 2.4d Utopus x too much for one man to bring to perfection



Importance of examples--

competition of communities, not individuals

4 1.2 patterns might be taken for correcting the errors of these nations among whom we live

31 2.4c gardens, emulation by streets [civic competition]

35 2.8c even the Syphogrants . . . work, that by their examples they may excite the industry of the rest of the people





reading notes

[I.1c] One day, as I was returning home from mass at St. Mary’s

I.1c-d seaman, traveler, philosopher

[I.1e] "This Raphael, who from his family carries the name of Hythloday, is not ignorant of the Latin tongue, but is eminently learned in the Greek

bore a share in three of his [Vespucci's] four voyages . . . one of those twenty-four who were left at the farthest place at which they touched in their last voyage to New Castile

[I.1g] . . . After those civilities were past which are usual with strangers upon their first meeting, we all went to my house, and entering into the garden, sat down on a green bank and entertained one another in discourse. [cf. Socratic pedagogy & dialogue]

[I.1k] But it were too long to dwell on all that he told us he had observed in every place, it would be too great a digression from our present purpose: whatever is necessary to be told concerning those wise and prudent institutions which he observed among civilized nations, may perhaps be related by us on a more proper occasion. We asked him many questions concerning all these things, to which he answered very willingly; we made no inquiries after monsters, than which nothing is more common; for everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel men-eaters, but it is not so easy to find states that are well and wisely governed.

[Book I, Paragraph 2]
patterns might be taken for correcting the errors of these nations among whom we live
[emulation]; of which an account may be given, as I have already promised, at some other time; for, at present, I intend only to relate those particulars that he told us, of the manners and laws of the Utopians:

[I.2a] After Raphael had discoursed with great judgment on the many errors that were both among us and these nations, had treated of the wise institutions both here and there, and had spoken as distinctly of the customs and government of every nation through which he had passed,

1.2f most princes apply themselves more to affairs of war than to the useful arts of peace

nature has so made us, that we all love to be flattered and to please ourselves with our own notions: the old crow loves his young, and the ape her cubs.

1.2g excuse of reverence for past times

[I.3d] “There are dreadful punishments enacted against thieves, but it were much better to make such good provisions by which every man might be put in a method how to live, and so be preserved from the fatal necessity of stealing and of dying for it.’ 

1.3h one who has been bred up in idleness and pleasure, and who was used to walk about with his sword and buckler, despising all the neighborhood with an insolent scorn as far below him, is not fit for the spade and mattock

[I.3o] “‘The increase of pasture,’ said I, ‘by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for

1.3q One shepherd can look after a flock, which will stock an extent of ground that would require many hands if it were to be ploughed and reaped.

1.3u let agriculture be set up again, and the manufacture of the wool be regulated, that so there may be work found for those companies of idle people whom want forces to be thieves

you first make thieves and then punish them?’

1.4 the formality of a debate 

1.5  But the method that I liked best was that which I observed in my travels in Persia, among the Polylerits [fictional people], who are a considerable and well-governed people: they pay a yearly tribute to the King of Persia, but in all other respects they are a free nation, and governed by their own laws: they lie far from the sea, and are environed with hills; and, being contented with the productions of their own country, which is very fruitful, they have little commerce with any other nation; and as they, according to the genius of their country, have no inclination to enlarge their borders, so their mountains and the pension they pay to the Persian, secure them from all invasions. [previews lost-valley or island utopia separate from ills of civilization]

[I.5a] “Thus they have no wars [cf. Republic, feverish city] among them; they live rather conveniently than with splendor, and may be rather called a happy nation than either eminent or famous

the goods of the thieves are estimated, and restitution being made out of them, the remainder is given to their wives and children; and they themselves are condemned to serve in the public works, but are neither imprisoned nor chained, unless there happens to be some extraordinary circumstance in their crimes. They go about loose and free, working for the public: if they are idle or backward to work they are whipped, but if they work hard they are well used and treated without any mark of reproach; only the lists of them are called always at night, and then they are shut up. They suffer no other uneasiness but this of constant labor; for, as they work for the public, so they are well entertained out of the public stock,

1.5b They all wear a peculiar habit [costume], of one certain color, and their hair is cropped a little above their ears, and a piece of one of their ears is cut off.

1.6 vice is not only destroyed and men preserved, but they are treated in such a manner as to make them see the necessity of being honest and of employing the rest of their lives in repairing the injuries they had formerly done to society. Nor is there any hazard of their falling back to their old customs;

1.6c When the Cardinal had done, they all commended the motion, though they had despised it when it came from me, but more particularly commended what related to the vagabonds, because it was his own observation.

1.7a I would have a law made for sending all these beggars to monasteries, the men to the Benedictines, to be made lay-brothers, and the women to be nuns.’ The Cardinal smiled, and approved of it in jest, but the rest liked it in earnest.

1.9a your friend Plato thinks that nations will be happy when either philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers.

1.10a  “Now when things are in so great a fermentation, and so many gallant men are joining counsels how to carry on the war, if so mean a man as I should stand up and wish them to change all their counsels—to let Italy alone and stay at home, since the kingdom of France was indeed greater than could be well governed by one man; that therefore he ought not to think of adding others to it; and if, after this, I should propose to them the resolutions of the Achorians, a people that lie on the south-east of Utopiair manners being corrupted by a long war, robbery and murders everywhere abounded, and their laws fell into contempt; while their king, distracted with the care of two kingdoms, was the less able to apply his mind to the interest of either.

1.10b seemed much more eligible that the king should improve his ancient kingdom all he could, and make it flourish as much as possible; that he should love his people, and be beloved of them; that he should live among them, govern them gently and let other kingdoms alone,

1.12 the Macarians—a people that live not far from Utopia—by which their king, on the day on which he began to reign, is tied by an oath, confirmed by solemn sacrifices, never to have at once above a thousand pounds of gold in his treasures, or so much silver as is equal to that in value. This law, they tell us, was made by an excellent king who had more regard to the riches of his country than to his own wealth, and therefore provided against the heaping up of so much treasure as might impoverish the people.

1.13c not for this speculative philosophy, that makes everything to be alike fitting at all times; but there is another philosophy that is more pliable, that knows its proper scene, accommodates itself to it, and teaches a man with propriety and decency to act that part which has fallen to his share

Therefore go through with the play that is acting the best you can

1.13e preachers seem to have learned that craft to which you advise me: for they, observing that the world would not willingly suit their lives to the rules that Christ has given, have fitted His doctrine, as if it had been a leaden rule, to their lives

1.15 s long as there is any property, and while money is the standard of all other things, I cannot think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily

1.15a the wise and good constitution of the Utopians, among whom all things are so well governed and with so few laws, where virtue hath its due reward, and yet there is such an equality that every man lives in plenty—when I compare with them so many other nations that are still making new laws, and yet can never bring their constitution to a right regulation; where, notwithstanding every one has his property, yet all the laws that they can invent have not the power either to obtain or preserve it, or even to enable men certainly to distinguish what is their own from what is another’s, of which the many lawsuits that every day break out, and are eternally depending, give too plain a demonstration—when, I say, I balance all these things in my thoughts, I grow more favorable to Plato

1.15b till property is taken away, there can be no equitable or just distribution of things, nor can the world be happily governed

1.15f  [T]heir chronicle mentions a shipwreck that was made on their coast twelve hundred years ago, and that some Romans and Egyptians that were in the ship, getting safe ashore, spent the rest of their days amongst them; and such was their ingenuity that from this single opportunity they drew the advantage of learning from those unlooked-for guests, and acquired all the useful arts that were then among the Romans

[I.15g] Upon this I said to him, “I earnestly beg you would describe that island very particularly to us; be not too short, but set out in order all things relating to their soil, their rivers, their towns, their people, their manners, constitution, laws, and, in a word, all that you imagine we desire to know


Book Two

2.1a no island at first, but a part of the continent. Utopus, that conquered it (whose name it still carries, for Abraxa was its first name), brought the rude and uncivilised inhabitants into such a good government, and to that measure of politeness, that they now far excel all the rest of mankind.  Having soon subdued them, he designed to separate them from the continent,

[2.2a] “No town desires to enlarge its bounds, for the people consider themselves rather as tenants than landlords.

2.2b chickens as family engineering

2.4b The town is compassed with a high and thick wall

2.4c] gardens behind all their houses.

there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years’ end they shift their houses by lots. They cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs.

And this humour of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation beween the inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant. [<classical theory of art as pleasing + functional]

2.4d extension of original utopia, 1700 years, extension by subsequent generations


prince for life


Throughout the island they wear the same sort of clothes, without any other distinction except what is necessary to distinguish the two sexes and the married and unmarried. The fashion never alters

Women, for the most part, deal in wool and flax, which suit best with their weakness, leaving the ruder trades to the men. The same trade generally passes down from father to son, inclinations often following descent: but if any man’s genius lies another way he is, by adoption, translated into a family that deals in the trade to which he is incline

[2.8] The chief, and almost the only, business of the Syphogrants is to take care that no man may live idle, but that every one may follow his trade diligently; yet they do not wear themselves out with perpetual toil

twenty-four hours, appoint six of these for work, three of which are before dinner and three after; they then sup, and at eight o’clock, counting from noon, go to bed and sleep eight hours: the rest of their time, besides that taken up in work, eating, and sleeping, is left to every man’s discretion; yet they are not to abuse that interval to luxury and idleness, but must employ it in some proper exercise, according to their various inclinations, which is, for the most part, reading. [a literary utopia!]

[2.8a] It is ordinary to have public lectures every morning before daybreak

2.8b two sorts of games not unlike our chess; the one is between several numbers, in which one number, as it were, consumes another; the other resembles a battle between the virtues and the vices

2.8c the number of those by whose labours mankind is supplied is much less than you perhaps imagined: then consider how few of those that work are employed in labours that are of real service, for we, who measure all things by money, give rise to many trades that are both vain and superfluous, and serve only to support riot and luxury

Even the Syphogrants, though excused by the law, yet do not excuse themselves, but work, that by their examples they may excite the industry of the rest of the people [emulation]

2.9a the chief end of the constitution is to regulate labour by the necessities of the public, and to allow the people as much time as is necessary for the improvement of their minds, in which they think the happiness of life consists.


2.11 Their women, when they grow up, are married out, but all the males, both children and grand-children, live still in the same house, in great obedience to their common parent, unless age has weakened his understanding, and in that case he that is next to him in age comes in his room; but lest any city should become either too great, or by any accident be dispeopled, provision is made that none of their cities may contain above six thousand families [population control / demographics always utopian concern]

2.12 the oldest man of every family, as has been already said, is its governor; wives serve their husbands, and children their parents, and always the younger serves the elder. Every city is divided into four equal parts

2.12a killing their beasts and for washing away their filth, which is done by their slaves

pity and good-nature, which are among the best of those affections that are born with us, are much impaired by the butchering of animals

2.13 though any that will may eat at home, yet none does it willingly, since it is both ridiculous and foolish for any to give themselves the trouble to make ready an ill dinner at home when there is a much more plentiful one made ready for him so near hand. [communal dining recalls monasteries and early universities; anticipates Looking Backward]

2.13a the men sit towards the wall, and the women sit on the other side

the child whom they nurse considers the nurse as its mother. [compare discussion of chickens in 2.2b]

2.13b a mixture of old and young, . . . restrain the younger from all indecent words and gestures.

2.14 They never sup without music, and there is always fruit served up after meat; while they are at table some burn perfumes and sprinkle about fragrant ointments and sweet waters—in short, they want nothing that may cheer up their spirits;


2.15 While they are on the road they carry no provisions with them, yet they want for nothing, but are everywhere treated as if they were at home. If they stay in any place longer than a night, every one follows his proper occupation, and is very well used by those of his own trade; but if any man goes out of the city to which he belongs without leave, and is found rambling without a passport, he is severely treated, he is punished as a fugitive, and sent home disgracefully; and, if he falls again into the like fault, is condemned to slavery

all men live in full view

2.16 indeed the whole island is, as it were, one family

2.17 their value of gold and silver should be measured by a very different standard; for since they have no use for money among themselves, but keep it as a provision against events which seldom happen, and between which there are generally long intervening intervals, they value it no farther than it deserves—that is, in proportion to its use.

The folly of men has enhanced the value of gold and silver because of their scarcity

2.18a They eat and drink out of vessels of earth or glass, . . . while they make their chamber-pots and close-stools of gold and silver, . . . likewise make chains and fetters for their slaves, to some of which, as a badge of infamy, they hang an earring of gold, and make others wear a chain or a coronet of the same metal; and thus they take care by all possible means to render gold and silver of no esteem [cf. behavioral conditioning]

2.20 taught to spend those hours in which they are not obliged to work in reading; and this they do through the whole progress of life. [more “literary utopia”]

2.21 they never dispute concerning happiness without fetching some arguments from the principles of religion as well as from natural reason [Christian Humanism?],

[2.22] “These are their religious principles:—That the soul of man is immortal, and that God of His goodness has designed that it should be happy; and that He has, therefore, appointed rewards for good and virtuous actions, and punishments for vice, to be distributed after this life.

2.22a They say that the first dictate of reason is the kindling in us a love and reverence for the Divine Majesty,

2.22b appeal to human nature, +- behaviorism

[2.22c] Thus as they define virtue to be living according to Nature, so they imagine that Nature prompts all people on to seek after pleasure as the end of all they do. They also observe that in order to our supporting the pleasures of life, Nature inclines us to enter into society

2.23  they account it piety to prefer the public good to one’s private concerns,

They are also persuaded that God will make up the loss of those small pleasures with a vast and endless joy, of which religion easily convinces a good soul.

2.25a no difference between his having or losing it, for both ways it was equally useless to him.

2.26 Therefore all this business of hunting is, among the Utopians, turned over to their butchers, and those, as has been already said, are all slaves, and they look on hunting as one of the basest parts of a butcher’s work,

[2.28] “They reckon up several sorts of pleasures, which they call true ones

They divide the pleasures of the body into two sorts—the one is that which gives our senses some real delight, . . . or that which arises from satisfying the appetite which Nature has wisely given to lead us to the propagation of the species. There is another kind of pleasure that arises neither from our receiving what the body requires, nor its being relieved when overcharged, and yet, by a secret unseen virtue, affects the senses, raises the passions, and strikes the mind with generous impressions—this is, the pleasure that arises from music.

2.28a freedom from pain, if it does not rise from perfect health, to be a state of stupidity rather than of pleasure.

2.29 “But, of all pleasures, they esteem those to be most valuable that lie in the mind, the chief of which arise out of true virtue and the witness of a good conscience. . . . the pleasure of eating and drinking, and all the other delights of sense, are only so far desirable as they give or maintain health; but they are not pleasant in themselves otherwise

[2.30] “They also entertain themselves with the other delights let in at their eyes, their ears, and their nostrils as the pleasant relishes and seasoning of life [cf. Plato’s Republic]

take care that a lesser joy does not hinder a greater, and that pleasure may never breed pain, which they think always follows dishonest pleasures. [aphoristic]

madness to weaken the strength of his constitution and reject the other delights of life, unless by renouncing his own satisfaction he can either serve the public or promote the happiness of others, for which he expects a greater recompense from God.

[2.31a] The people are industrious, apt to learn, as well as cheerful and pleasant, and none [but?] can endure more labour when it is necessary; but, except in that case, they love their ease. They are unwearied pursuers of knowledge

In three years’ time they became masters of the whole language, so that they read the best of the Greek authors very exactly. I am, indeed, apt to think that they learned that language the more easily from its having some relation to their own. I believe that they were a colony of the Greeks; for though their language comes nearer the Persian, yet they retain many names, both for their towns and magistrates, that are of Greek derivation. [cf. myths of Atlantis spreading civilization to Americas etc.]

[2.31b] I happened to carry a great many books with me, instead of merchandise, . . . many of Plato’s and some of Aristotle’s works:

they search into the secrets of nature, so they not only find this study highly agreeable, but think that such inquiries are very acceptable to the Author of nature; and imagine, that as He, like the inventors of curious engines amongst mankind, has exposed this great machine of the universe to the view of the only creatures capable of contemplating it, so an exact and curious observer, who admires His workmanship, is much more acceptable to Him than one of the herd, who, like a beast incapable of reason, looks on this glorious scene with the eyes of a dull and unconcerned spectator.


the slaves among them are only such as are condemned to that state of life for the commission of some crime

2.35 forbidden embraces

[2.35a] In choosing their wives . . . some grave matron presents the bride, naked, whether she is a virgin or a widow, to the bridegroom, and after that some grave man presents the bridegroom, naked, to the bride. . . . buy a horse

2.36a adulterer and the adulteress are condemned to slavery

2.37 But those who bear their punishment patiently,  . . . really more troubled for the crimes they have committed than for the miseries they suffer, are not out of hope . . . restore them again to their liberty, or, at least, very much mitigate their slavery.

[2.38] “They take great pleasure in fools [mentally impaired?], and as it is thought a base and unbecoming thing to use them ill, so they do not think it amiss for people to divert themselves with their folly;

[2.39] “As they fright men from committing crimes by punishments, so they invite them to the love of virtue by public honours; therefore they erect statues to the memories of such worthy men as have deserved well of their country, and set these in their market-places, both to perpetuate the remembrance of their actions and to be an incitement to their posterity to follow their example.[classic utopian motivation by example and emulation, undermined by potentially incorrect assumption that all people are inspired by the worth of others]

2.42 no lawyers

the judge examines the whole matter, and supports the simplicity of such well-meaning persons, whom otherwise crafty men would be sure to run down; and thus they avoid those evils which appear very remarkably among all those nations that labour under a vast load of laws. Every one of them is skilled in their law; for, as it is a very short study, so the plainest meaning of which words are capable is always the sense of their laws (U.S. Constitution)

2.44 no trusting to leagues

2.45 two sorts of justice; the one is mean and creeps on the ground, and, therefore, becomes none but the lower part of mankind, and so must be kept in severely by many restraints, that it may not break out beyond the bounds that are set to it; the other is the peculiar virtue of princes, which, as it is more majestic than that which becomes the rabble, so takes a freer compass, and thus lawful and unlawful are only measured by pleasure and interest.


2.49 many of them, and even the prince himself, have been betrayed, by those in whom they have trusted most; for the rewards that the Utopians offer are so immeasurably great,

2.51 the Zapolets, who live five hundred miles east of Utopia. They are a rude, wild, and fierce nation, who delight in the woods and rocks, among which they were born and bred up. They are hardened both against heat, cold, and labour, and know nothing of the delicacies of life. . . . made, as it were, only for war.

[2.52b] But as they force no man to go into any foreign war against his will, so they do not hinder those women who are willing to go along with their husbands; on the contrary, they encourage and praise them, and they stand often next their husbands in the front of the army. They also place together those who are related, parents, and children, kindred, and those that are mutually allied, near one another; that those whom nature has inspired with the greatest zeal for assisting one another may be the nearest and readiest to do it; and it is matter of great reproach if husband or wife survive one another, or if a child survives his parent, and therefore when they come to be engaged in action, they continue to fight to the last man,


[2.56] “There are several sorts of religions, not only in different parts of the island, but even in every town


[2.58] “After they had heard from us an account of the doctrine, the course of life, and the miracles of Christ, and of the wonderful constancy of so many martyrs, whose blood, so willingly offered up by them, was the chief occasion of spreading their religion over a vast number of nations, it is not to be imagined how inclined they were to receive it.

2.59 only one man punished

banishment, not for having disparaged their religion, but for his inflaming the people to sedition; for this is one of their most ancient laws, that no man ought to be punished for his religion.

2.63 so much the more esteemed by the whole nation

2.76 conspiracy of the rich

2.78 agree and disagree



Bakhtin re author's voice p. 47



Herland chapters 1-2 Notes

1.1 writing, gardens

1.3 for fear some self-appointed missionaries, or traders, or land-greedy expansionists

1.6 Terry rich, mechanical

1.8 Jeff = poet, botanist, doctor

[1.9] As for me, sociology's my major. You have to back that up with a lot of other sciences, of course. I'm interested in them all. [late 1800s, early 1900s Progressive era featured professionalization of human or social sciences like sociology, anthropology, psychology]

[1.11] big scientific expedition.

[1.14]  talk among our guides. . . . legends and folk myths of these scattered tribes.

1.15 savages had a story about a strange and terrible Woman Land in the high distance.

1.17 a Big Country, Big Houses, Plenty People—All Women.

1.23 short river, sweet water, red and blue."

1.34 secretly hoping to have some nice little discovery all to ourselves.

1.35 Terry, with compass and notebook, marking directions and trying to place landmarks.

1.37 saw a quite different country—a sudden view of mountains, steep and bare.

1.42 a quiet marginal pool where there were smears of red along the border; yes, and of blue.

[1.44] "Chemicals of some sort—I can't tell on the spot. Look to me like dyestuffs. Let's get nearer," he urged, "up there by the fall."

[1.45] Jeff suddenly held up an unlooked-for trophy.

[1.46] It was only a rag, a long, raveled fragment of cloth. But it was a well-woven fabric, with a pattern, and of a clear scarlet that the water had not faded. No savage tribe that we had heard of made such fabrics. [Modern feminist theory may associate men’s culture with texts, women’s with textiles]

[1.54] something attractive to a bunch of unattached young men in finding an undiscovered country of a strictly Amazonian nature.

[1.56] "Somewhere up yonder they spin and weave and dye—as well as we do."

[1.57] "That would mean a considerable civilization

[1.74] "A punitive expedition," I urged. "If the ladies do eat us we must make reprisals." [humorous / satirical mix of military and little-boy talk]

[1.82] And Terry, in his secret heart, had visions of a sort of sublimated summer resort—just Girls and Girls and Girls—and that he was going to be—well, Terry was popular among women

[1.91] It was funny though, in the light of what we did find, those extremely clear ideas of ours as to what a country of women would be like.

[1.93] "They would fight among themselves," Terry insisted. "Women always do. We mustn't look to find any sort of order and organization."

[1.94] "You're dead wrong," Jeff told him. "It will be like a nunnery under an abbess—a peaceful, harmonious sisterhood."

[1.96] "Nuns, indeed! Your peaceful sisterhoods were all celibate, Jeff, and under vows of obedience. These are just women, and mothers, and where there's motherhood you don't find sisterhood—not much." [do the men project competitive / Darwinian nature on women?]

[1.97] . . . "Also we mustn't look for inventions and progress; it'll be awfully primitive."

[1.101] "You'll see," he insisted. "I'll get solid with them all—and play one bunch against another. I'll get myself elected king in no time—

[1.105] . . . Jeff idealized women in the best Southern style. He was full of chivalry and sentiment, and all that. And he was a good boy; he lived up to his ideals.

1.106 I always liked Terry. He was a man's man, very much so, generous and brave and clever; but I don't think any of us in college days was quite pleased to have him with our sisters. We weren't very stringent, heavens no! But Terry was "the limit." Later on—why, of course a man's life is his own, we held, and asked no questions.

1.107 Terry's idea seemed to be that pretty women were just so much game and homely ones not worth considering.

[1.109] But I got out of patience with Jeff, too. He had such rose-colored halos on his womenfolks. I held a middle ground, highly scientific, of course, and used to argue learnedly about the physiological limitations of the sex.

[1.124]  well forested about the edges, but in the interior there were wide plains, and everywhere park-like meadows and open places.

[1.125] There were cities, too; that I insisted. It looked—well, it looked like any other country—a civilized one, I mean.

[1.130] a land in a state of perfect cultivation, where even the forests looked as if they were cared for; a land that looked like an enormous park, only it was even more evidently an enormous garden. [cf. “Ecotopia” + gardens in More and Bellamy]

[1.136] "But they look—why, this is a CIVILIZED country!" I protested. "There must be men."



[2.2] Even Terry's ardor was held in check by his firm conviction that there were men to be met, and we saw to it that each of us had a good stock of cartridges [ammunition].

2.3 some kind of a matriarchate, . . . a national harem! But there are men somewhere—didn't you see the babies?"

[2.6] "Talk of civilization," he [Jeff] cried softly in restrained enthusiasm. "I never saw a forest so petted, even in Germany.

2.10 birds, some gorgeous, some musical, all so tame that it seemed almost to contradict our theory of cultivation

[2.18] . . .  something—more than one something— . . . separated into three swift-moving figures and fled upward

[2.22] They were girls, of course, no boys could ever have shown that sparkling beauty, and yet none of us was certain at first.

[2.23] We saw short hair, hatless, loose, and shining; a suit of some light firm stuff, the closest of tunics and kneebreeches, met by trim gaiters.

[2.29] "Celis," she said distinctly, pointing to the one in blue; "Alima"—the one in rose; then, with a vivid imitation of Terry's impressive manner, she laid a firm delicate hand on her gold-green jerkin—"Ellador."

[2.30] "We can't sit here and learn the language," Terry protested. He beckoned to them to come nearer, most winningly—but they gaily shook their heads. He suggested, by signs, that we all go down together; but again they shook their heads, still merrily. Then Ellador clearly indicated that we should go down, pointing to each and all of us, with unmistakable firmness; and further seeming to imply by the sweep of a lithe arm that we not only go downward, but go away altogether—at which we shook our heads in turn.

2.31 a long sparkling thing, a necklace of big varicolored stones

[2.32] . . . Alima, a tall long-limbed lass, well-knit and evidently both strong and agile. Her eyes were splendid, wide, fearless, as free from suspicion as a child's who has never been rebuked. Her interest was more that of an intent boy playing a fascinating game than of a girl lured by an ornament.

2.38 Women like to be run after.

[2.41] Sure enough, close to the town, across a wide meadow, three bright-hued figures were running swiftly.

[2.48] The road was some sort of hard manufactured stuff, sloped slightly to shed rain, with every curve and grade and gutter as perfect as if it were Europe's best. "No men, eh?" sneered Terry.

[2.60] Everything was beauty, order, perfect cleanness, and the pleasantest sense of home over it all.

[2.61] . . . before us a band of women standing close together in even order, evidently waiting for us.

[2.63] They were not young. They were not old. They were not, in the girl sense, beautiful. They were not in the least ferocious. And yet, as I looked from face to face, calm, grave, wise, wholly unafraid, evidently assured and determined, I had the funniest feeling—a very early feeling—a feeling that I traced back and back in memory until I caught up with it at last. It was that sense of being hopelessly in the wrong that I had so often felt in early youth when my short legs' utmost effort failed to overcome the fact that I was late to school. [analogy / metaphor makes unfamiliar familiar]

2.65 not old women. Each was in the full bloom of rosy health, erect, serene, standing sure-footed and light as any pugilist [boxer]. They had no weapons, and we had, but we had no wish to shoot.

2.66 Terry had come armed with a theory.

[2.69] In all our discussions and speculations we had always unconsciously assumed that the women, whatever else they might be, would be young. Most men do think that way, I fancy.

[2.70] "Woman" in the abstract is young, and, we assume, charming. As they get older they pass off the stage, somehow, into private ownership mostly, or out of it altogether. But these good ladies were very much on the stage, and yet any one of them might have been a grandmother.

2.78 We seemed to think that if there were men we could fight them, and if there were only women—why, they would be no obstacles at all.

[2.80] And now here they were, in great numbers, evidently indifferent to what he might think, evidently determined on some purpose of their own regarding him, and apparently well able to enforce their purpose.

[2.92] Never, anywhere before, had I seen women of precisely this quality. Fishwives and market women might show similar strength, but it was coarse and heavy. These were merely athletic—light and powerful. College professors, teachers, writers—many women showed similar intelligence but often wore a strained nervous look, while these were as calm as cows, for all their evident intellect.

[2.98] Then we found ourselves much in the position of the suffragette trying to get to the Parliament buildings through a triple cordon of London police. [In 1908 the Women’s Social & Political Union attempted to enter the British House of Commons in quest of women’s suffrage or right to vote]

[2.100] . . . we were lifted like children








Utopia 2-3 scene, dialogue, narrative

+ Bakhtin: "meeting on the road"


In utopian fiction, tendency to expand "dialogue" into "Socratic dialogue" on philosophical issues



titles like Syphogrant and Tranibor generate moderate exoticism--cf. Adventure or Travel literature


Lacking plot, what literary pleasures?

84 character interplay

proverbs 2, 7

anecdote 6-7

figurative speech

21 analogy, proverb

23 no ill simile

25 analogy of a sick man

[rhetoric x poetics]


cf science fiction

33 Tranibors

67 Zapolets

80 hieroglyphics


28 Utopus, Abraxas

28 separated them from the continent, deep channel dug


family issues

2.2b 29-30 [chicken family modifications]

2.7 34 trade from father to son; if change, adopted into another family

2.11 37 none of their cities may contain above six thousand families

2.11 37 removing some of the children of a more fruitful couple to any other family that does not abound so much in them

2.13a 40 child considers nurse as mother

2.16 42 the whole island is, as it were, one family



property / capital vs. human capital / merit

22 philosophical way of speculation > friends, x-court

22 not able to make them go well they may be as little ill as possible; for except all men were good everything cannot be right

23 Plato contrives, Utopians practice . . . so different from our establishment, which is founded on property, there being no such thing among them

25 analogy of sick man

25 [common sense to the contrary]

31 there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years end they shift their houses by lots

34 no man may live idle, but do not wear themselves out with perpetual toil

34 6 hrs of labor

35 a small proportion of time would serve for doing all that is either necessary, profitable, or pleasant to mankind, especially while pleasure is kept within its due bounds.

37 improvement of their minds, in which they think the happiness of life consists [cf. Weber]

38 laws x-pomp, glory, pride, excess

43 folly of men has enhanced the value of gold and silver, because of their scarcity . . .  Nature, as an indulgent parent, has greely given us all the best things in great abundance, such as water and earth, but has laid up and hid from us the things that are vain and useless.

2.25a 50 heap up wealth for contemplation and joy of it? [neglects re-investment of Protestant work ethic]

69 [human capital]




Preview of Looking Backward 

priority question for first part of midterm: What formal and historical resemblances between More's Utopia and Bellamy's Looking Backward?

How do you start building a working definition of "utopian text" or "utopian novel" from these examples?


historical background

full title: Looking Backward, 2000-1887

historical context of "Gilded Age" of late 19th century

"Robber Barons" and "Captains of Industry"

rapid urbanization

rising immigration, surplus of workers, exploitation plus cultural change from "Anglo"-dominant North American society to more diverse


3c. Is the utopian impulse universal, or is it special to western civilization, esp. in its modern phase? Has the utopian impulse become extinct or evolved? Is utopia “progressive / liberal” or “reactionary / conservative?”

good introduction to Modern Library edition

other Utopian literary / cultural sources


Impact of Looking Backward on history

publishing sensation, discussion groups formed (cf. Purpose-Driven Life?)

influence of "Progressive Movement" of early 20th century?

(progressive taxation, environmental and health regulations, worker protection)


Ergo historically exciting, but a somewhat dull reading experience--clear and readable, though.

2a. What problems of plot or narrative rise from a utopian vision that minimizes conflict and maximizes description or exposition of success and harmony? What genre variations derive from these problems with plot?

2b. How much does the “plotlessness” of utopian fiction correspond to or circumvent the problem of arriving at utopia?

In both Looking Backward and Herland, the journeys to the utopia may be the most dramatic episodes

What parts work best?

What drives you crazy?

What does the report leave out?

If you were writing a dystopian counter-text to Looking Backward, which characters or scenes would you redevelop or diverge from?






Discussion start by Omar Sayid 2011


3e. Do utopian forms mirror and confirm social norms or oppose them?

5c. What difficulties does utopian instruction typically present? 


Compare More’s characters’ words to how we as an American people treat our convicts in the American Judicial system. For example, we as a people don’t use convicts as day laborers, however we also don’t, as More implores we shouldn’t, view each and every crime as capital in of itself but rather view it on a spectrum of criminality and see where it sits upon that spectrum – compare this to our Judicial system, including crime categories (misdemeanor [1-3], felony [1-3], summary offense)


In what ways do More’s words differ or are similar to how we treat our convicts? Any examples?


Does More’s view on communism or the idea of a communal land, belongings and his subsequent dismissal of the idea on page 25 garner any comments?



Discussion starter for Book 1, pp. 1-27; Book 2, pp. 28-57: Kristen Bird



“For if you suffer your people to be ill educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”  (Book 1, pages 10-11)

  • Are the arguments the speaker points out against society logical and valid?  Do his arguments seem progressive or conservative?



Objective 1b. What different genres contribute to, interface with, or branch from utopia? Examples: dystopia, ecotopia, Socratic dialogue, tract, propaganda, satire, science fiction, fantasy, novel / romance, adventure / travel narrative. Others?:


In the narrative, we see aspects of a travel narrative and perhaps even a dystopia – example: the control of the government on every aspect of life, even travel.  Did you notice any other aspects from this objective – ecotopia, Socratic dialogue, tract, propaganda, satire, science fiction, fantasy, novel/romance, etc…?


Summary of the people: “The people are industrious, apt to learn, as well as cheerful and pleasant; and none can endure more labour, when it is necessary; but except in that case they love their ease.  They are unwearied pursuers of knowledge…They learned to write their characters, and to pronounce their language so exactly, had so quick an apprehension, they remembered it so faithfully, and became so ready and correct in the use of it, that it would have looked like a miracle if the greater part of those whom we taught had not been men both of extraordinary capacity and of a fit age for instruction.” (Book 2, page 55)

  • What are some elements of the Utopian society that stood out to you or interested you the most in Book 2?


Objective 1d. What other stylistic or affective elements recur? Examples: nostalgia, hope, alienation, displacement or transference, didacticism.


The speaker, when referring to Utopia, inserts traditionally positive terms that evoke nostalgia and hope – cheerful, pleasant, ease, pleasure, faithfully, miracle, abound, overplus – and for every potentially negative suggestion, he adds that the people accept it happily and abide by the rules.

  • Is the writer making Utopia sound better than it is?  On Tuesday we discussed that utopias and dystopias can at times be synonymous.  Is that the inherent nature of a Utopia?