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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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UTOPIAN LITERATURE AFTER MORE

In the many years that followed More's Utopia, the genre of Utopian writing flourished as more emphasis was given to life as it is lived on Earth and explorers returned with accounts of societies that had different systems than European ones. The French satirist Rabelais in the first book of his Pantagruel (1532) has a section titled "Expedition to Utopia." Though these are two very different works, the influence of More on this work is referred to in the naming of the citizens of this ideal state as being Amaurotes, after the Utopia capital. In his next book Gargantua, Rabelais describes another ideal society in the description of the Abbeye of Theleme. In this monastery there is a general assumption that if given freedom, people will act in good and respectful ways.

The City of the Sun (1623) by Tommaso Campanella, Christianopolis (1619) by Johann V. Andreae and The New Atlantis (1624) by Francis Bacon were all published in the early seventeenth century. Campanella's City of the Sun shows the influence of More's travel account as it is also narrated by a sailor who has seen ideal conditions existing in a far away island. Like Utopia, there is no private property and money in this land and there is a sharing of work. Campanella too was interested in justice, religion, science and education. His emphasis on education for everyone and the importance of studying the sciences are two very notable Renaissance characteristics of this book.

Christianopolis by Johann Valentin Andreae is similar to Utopia. Again there is no money or property, equitable sharing of work and men and women are equal. Everything is commonly owned and education and scientific research are given prominence. There is a great laboratory in Christianopolis that experiments on how to improve living conditions.


Francis Bacon's book is another that echoes the scientific interests of the time. In fact, Bacon asserts that science is most important in the advancement of human welfare. His Solomon's House is a huge academy where Science and Reason reign supreme. Set on an island in the Pacific Ocean, the book reveals a society whose main objective is to attain social justice and harmony. Written later than the other two, the emphasis on science recalls more of the Enlightenment philosophy than it does the Renaissance.

After these three writers, the humanist Utopias came to an end and a new era of Utopian literature began, much of it inspired by Rousseau's theory of the "noble savage," which compared the essential primitive goodness of the savage to the cultured vices of Europeans. Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is an excellent example of the influence of this theory on Utopian accounts in which the author defends the lifestyle of the Tahitians in an imaginary dialogue between a French priest and a native Tahitian. Diderot actually gives a specific site for his book and embellishes on this society in order to make it a "Utopia."

At the height of the industrial age in America, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888) is the first important American Utopian novel. The author projects his hero forward in time to the year 2000 and an ideal state. In this state, money has been replaced with a monthly dispensation, all industry has been nationalized, and there are no bankers, lawyers, or salespeople. From this vantagepoint, the hero looks back and critiques the atrocities and iniquities of late nineteenth century Boston with its unequal distribution of wealth and excessive capitalism.

William Morris' News from Nowhere (1891) offers a view of England in the 21st century. In Morris' view, all the atrocities and ugliness of industrial England has been removed and replaced with simplicity, elegance and beauty. Labor is regarded as a pleasurable activity because people are chosen to do jobs that they are suited for and take pride in their work.

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