LITR 5439 Literary & Historical Utopias

Instructor's Presentation

Brook Farm (1840s) /
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (1852)


European Renaissance (1400s-1600s) gave rise to many utopian texts and communities.

American Renaissance (1820s-60s) also many utopias.


1840s-50s: several demographic movements

Beginnings of large-scale non-WASP immigration following Irish Potato Famine

Manifest Destiny: expansion of USA boundaries westward: Indian Wars, US-Mexico War 1846-48

Urbanization: rural population increasingly moves to cities (Boston, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati)

Cherokee Trail of Tears 1820s-30s

Increasing migration of African Americans to North via Underground Railroad--Abolition


"First Wave" of American feminism: Seneca Falls Convention (1848) & other women's rights conventions (mostly NE & New England)

Millennialism: The "Millerites" were the first mass-culture apocalyptic movement in the USA, anticipating End-Times in 1843-44 (>Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists)

Temperance and other reform movements


Surprising number of intentional / experimental communities or utopias

Shaker communities

Mormon communities

Fourierist communities (<Charles Fourier 1772-1837, French utopian theorist) [La Reunion, a Fourierist community near Dallas, founded 1855]

Oneida Community

2007 presentation on Oneida Community

2005 presentation on Oneida Community


Web of American Transcendentalism

History of Brook Farm


Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

1850 The Scarlet Letter

1851 The House of the Seven Gables

1852 The Blithedale Romance


Miles Coverdale, minor poet, narrator

Hollingsworth, blacksmith, philanthropist

Zenobia, feminist intellectual

Priscilla, urban waif & spiritualistic medium

Westervelt, mesmerist-spiritualist






Craig White,  "A Utopia of 'Spheres and Sympathies': Science and Society in The Blithedale Romance and at Brook Farm." Utopian Studies 9.2 (1998): 78-102.