Criticism: Utopianism In American Literature - Essay

Taylor Stoehr (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Art vs. Utopia: The Case of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Brook Farm,” in Antioch Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter, 1978, pp. 89-102.

[In the following essay, Stoehr examines the impact of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life at the utopian colony, Brook Farm, on his novel The Blithedale Romance, and explores the tension between art and society in the novel.]

The United States has been a country of extraordinary faith and extraordinary cynicism. We are idealists who pride ourselves on our pragmatism. Our institutions fail miserably to do what we ask them to, and we shrug our shoulders. Young people are expected to go through a period of admirable moral fervor—and...

(The entire section is 5293 words.)

John Ferguson (essay date 1978-1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mark Twain's Utopia,” in Mark Twain Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 3, Winter, 1978-1979, pp. 1-2.

[In the following essay, Ferguson critiques Mark Twain's utopian story “The Curious Republic of Gondour.”]

“The Curious Republic of Gondour” was published anonymously in Atlantic Monthly for Oct. 1895. It was a time when Mark Twain was actively concerned with politics. He was not a party politician, though his sympathies were generally Republican. The 1876 Presidential campaign was the first in which he was deeply involved emotionally: he believed intensely in Hayes's commitment to clean government, and thought that Tilden's election would be a...

(The entire section is 1324 words.)

Gorman Beauchamp (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Melville and the Tradition of Primitive Utopia,” in JGE: The Journal of General Education, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, Spring, 1981, pp. 6-14.

[In the following essay, Beauchamp evaluates the primitive, escapist utopia of Melville's Typee.]

Among the compensatory myths of political theory, before the Idea of Progress pushed all others to the periphery, three figured most significantly: the myth of the Golden Age, the concept of the Noble Savage, and the dream of utopia. Although these imaginative constructs differ to the obvious degree of each requiring its own rubric, they nevertheless interpenetrate in crucial ways and share a number of common features. Of the...

(The entire section is 3558 words.)

George R. Uba (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Howells and the Practicable Utopia: The Allegorical Structure of the Altrurian Romances,” in The Journal of Narrative Technique, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring, 1983, pp. 118-30.

[In the following essay, Uba explores the allegorical nature of William Dean Howells's utopian romances, A Traveller from Altruria and Through the Eye of the Needle.]

The utopian novels A Traveller From Altruria (1894) and Through the Eye of the Needle (1907) hold an anomalous position in the literary canon of William Dean Howells. Not only do they mark a shift away from his characteristic brand of realism but both individually and collectively they pose a problem of...

(The entire section is 6267 words.)

Reimer Jehmlich (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cog-Work: The Organization of Labor in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and in Later Utopian Fiction,” in Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Environments in SF, edited by Richard D. Erlich and Thomas P. Dunn, Greenwood Press, 1983, pp. 27-46.

[In the following essay, Jehmlich investigates the problem of labor as it is addressed in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, and examines the novel's influence on subsequent utopian treatments of this problem.]

It is not only mechanized environments—Disneylands of all types and sizes—that threaten to cripple modern man and alienate him from both his fellow man and nature. A more immediate threat, so it...

(The entire section is 8923 words.)

Naomi Jacobs (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Substance and Reality in Hawthorne's Meta-Utopia,” in Utopian Studies, Vol. 1, 1987, pp. 173-87.

[In the following essay, Jacobs investigates the utopian elements of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance.]

“Upon my honor, I am not quite sure that I entirely comprehend my own meaning in some of these blasted allegories; but I remember that I always had a meaning—or, at least, thought I had.”

Hawthorne to Fields, 1854

The unusual mix of autobiographical/historical subject matter and allegorical method in Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance has led readers down a...

(The entire section is 5725 words.)

Lee Cullen Khanna (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Text as Tactic: Looking Backward and the Power of the Word,” in Looking Backward, 1988-1888: Essays on Edward Bellamy, edited by Daphne Patai, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, pp. 37-50.

[In the following essay, Khanna discusses Edward Bellamy's early utopian fiction in order to highlight the tension between “theory and praxis” in Looking Backward.]

Utopian fiction is a hybrid genre, and Edward Bellamy, one of the great utopists, worked its inherent contradictions into a text of surprising social and political power. Although modern readers are likely to dismiss Looking Backward, citing its systematized solutions to social...

(The entire section is 5925 words.)