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Title: What happened to utopias in the Eighteenth Century?
Authors: Altaher, Amer
Supervisors: Loveman, Kate
Dzelzainis, Martin
Award date: 30-Jun-2015
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: The aim of this study is to contribute to the debate about the position of utopia in the eighteenth-century literary domain, through a discussion of the utopian elements in some of the most illustrious works that the century produced, such as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, as well as Delarivier Manley’s New Atalantis, and in some less known works such as Spence’s A Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe, and the anonymous The Modern Atalantis, seeking to show how these works embodied new meanings and uses of utopia, both as a term and idea, as perceived by eighteenth-century readers. It argues that two trends of utopian writing emerged in the seventeenth century. The first, which corresponded to Robinson’s translation of More’s Utopia, regarded utopia as a serious vision for a better society. This interpretation was adopted by Francis Bacon in the New Atlantis and James Harrington in The Commonwealth of Oceana. These two works were direct responses to More in the sense that Bacon and Harrington refer explicitly to aspects of Utopia in their narratives respectively. The second, which was based on Burnet’s translation of the text, often emphasised the playfulness of Utopia and associated it with romance and entertainment. This understanding of the utopia was particularly illustrated in Henry Neville’s The Isle of Pines in the second part of the seventeenth century and continued into the early part of the eighteenth century in Defoe’s and Manley’s utopian-influenced works. The works of Manley and Defoe maintained this tradition of writing as their many imitations, responses, and continuations, which appeared in the latter part of the century, show. The most important of these are The Modern Atalantis and Thomas Spence’s A Supplement to the History of Robinson Crusoe. The former reflected on Manley’s and Bacon’s work in its motifs, structure, and purposes. The latter was a response to Defoe’s utopian vision in The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The significance of these works is that they put together elements from earlier utopian and utopian-related works to construct new utopian tropes. The overall aim of this study is to discuss a set of works that are often thought not to have any utopian bearings. It seeks to offer new understandings of utopian or utopian-influenced eighteenth-century texts that were often understudied by modern critics of utopia, reflecting on previously uninspected aspects of the writings of Defoe and Manley. It also seeks to bring to light significant works that have been given little or no critical attention before, in connection to the understanding of utopia in the second part of the eighteenth century.
Type: Thesis
Level: Masters
Qualification: MPhil
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Dept. of English
Leicester Theses

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