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Varieties of Literary Utopias Author(s): Northrop Frye Reviewed work(s): Source: Daedalus, Vol. 94, No. 2, Utopia (Spring, 1965), pp. 323-347 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: . Accessed: 17/01/2012 19:45Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

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NORTHROP Varieties


of Literary Utopias

can be are two social conceptions which There only in expressed an account terms of myth. One is the social contract, which presents of the origins of society. The other is the utopia, which presents an social life aims. vision of the telos or end at which imaginative the in an analysis two myths These of the present, both begin the mythmaker, that confronts and they project this analysis society it into the past, the utopia in time or space. The contract projects a contemporary of into the future or some distant place. To Hobbes, was the most the Puritan Revolution, social principle important a the maintenance of de facto power; hence he constructs myth of on the conception contract of society's surrender of that turning a contemporary the of the Whig Revolution, power. To Locke, most social principle was the relation of de facto power important a or de to hence he constructs jure authority; myth legitimate on society's delegation of power. The value of such a myth turning on the as and penetration of the social depth theory depends a which it. The social contract, analysis inspires genuine though in John Stuart Mill's phrase, passes a fiction off as a myth which, as an fact, is usually regarded integral part of social theory. The on the other hand, its origin is much the same, utopia, although to fiction. The reason is that the in the emphasis belongs primarily contract myth falls on the present it is facts of society which to explain. And even to the extent that the contract supposed myth into the past, the past is the area where is projected historical at least the evidence of lies; and so the myth preserves gesture assertions that can be definitely verified or refuted. making is a speculative it is The utopia to contain or myth; designed a vision for one's social ideas, not to be a theory connecting provide social facts together. There have been one or two attempts to take


NORTHROP FRYE to set them up as actual constructions utopian literally by trying make melan of these communities but the histories communities, to a point, but hardly up choly reading. Life imitates literature up to that looks at his own society first and point. The utopian writer are. The its significant tries to see what, elements for his purposes, itself shows what society would be like if those elements were utopia Plato looked at his society and saw its structure as fully developed. a the of priests, warriors, artisans, and servants?much hierarchy same structure that the caste system of India. The Republic inspired such a hierarchy func shows what a society would be like in which tioned on the principle of justice, that is, each man doing his own a Christian framework of ideas, as work. More, thinking within the natural of society were elements sumed that the significant The Utopia virtues, itself, fortitude, prudence. justice, temperance, in its second or constructive be book, shows what a society would to assume allowed their like in which the natural virtues were Marx by as Bacon, on the other hand, anticipates of social factors is technological the most suming significant constructs and his New Atlantis accordingly. productivity, a utopia two literary of constructing The procedure produces are in the genre. In the almost invariable, typical, qualities which is described of society the behavior first place, ritually. A ritual a is concerned is social act, and the utopia-writer only significant are of those social ele with the typical actions which significant stories a frequent In utopian is for ments he is stressing. device a to enter the utopia and someone, generally narrator, first-person be shown around it by a sort of Intourist guide. The story is made between in up largely of a Socratic dialogue guide and narrator, or thinks up narrator asks questions and the which the objections a series of answers them. One gets a little weary, in reading guide such stories, of what seems a pervading smugness of tone. As a rule identified with his society and seldom admits the guide is completely to any discrepancy between the reality and the appearance of what that this is inevitable But we recognize he is describing. given the In the second place, rituals are conventions employed. apparently rational when their significance is ex irrational acts which become the the structure of the so In such utopias guide explains plained. of the behavior ciety and thereby the significance being observed. as of society is presented the behavior Hence, rationally motivated. to utopias that they present human nature It is a common objection more reason than it is or can be. But this rational as by governed natural forms. that 324

Varieties of Literary Utopiascertain literary conventions. emphasis, again, is the result of using as romance The utopian does not present by governed society social it as governed by ritual habit, or prescribed reason; it presents is explained rationally. behavior, which a social good deal of prescribed Every society, of course, imposes on its citizens, much of it being followed behavior unconsciously, in and custom having accepted by convention completely anything it a large automatic element. But even automatic ritual habits are to some ex and so every society can be seen or described explicable, de tent as a of conscious design. The symbol of conscious product its abstract pattern of streets and in society is the city, with sign dis and with the complex economic cycle of production, buildings, that it sets up. The utopia is primarily and consumption tribution, a a vision of the society. Plato's city-dominated orderly city and of a in culture and Spartan in disci is city-state, Athenian Republic as a was inevitable that the utopia, literary genre, should pline. It the the period in which be revived at the time of the Renaissance, social order was breaking down again into city-state units medieval or nations in its the utopia, from a capital city. Again, governed own or the writer's form, contrasts, explicitly, typical implicitly one he describes. The desirable the more desirable with society the writer's own society society, or the utopia proper, is essentially into their conscious its unconscious with ritual habits transposed the two societies implies The contrast in value between equivalents. a satire on the writer's own society, and the basis for the satire is or in the social behavior he ob the unconsciousness inconsistency serves around him. More's Utopia begins with a satire on the chaos and presents the Utopia itself of sixteenth-century life in England as a contrast to it. Thus the typical utopia contains, if only by im a satire on the own so inherent in the writer's anarchy plication, and the utopia form flourishes best when anarchy seems most ciety, a social threat. Since More, but utopias have appeared regularly in literature, with a great increase around the close of sporadically later vogue to do the nineteenth century. This clearly had much ver with laissez-faire the distrust and dismay aroused by extreme sions of capitalism, of as manifestations which were of thoughtanarchy.

in stressing follow either More (and Plato) utopia-writers or Bacon in the legal structure of their societies, stressing its techno is closer to actual social power. The former type of utopia logical is now called and political theory; the latter overlaps with what Most 325

NORTHROP FRYE a serious since the Industrial Revolution fiction. Naturally, can themes. And avoid utopia technological hardly introducing to the utopia has tended is progressive, because getting technology to be a journey in time rather than space, a vision of increasingly the future and not of a society located in some isolated spot on the are a very old form of it: journeys to the moon (or outside globe some of them are The growth of science and fiction, and utopian). with it a prodigious increase in the legal compli technology brings cations of existence. As soon as medical science identifies the source science in a germ, laws of quarantine of a contagious disease go into effect; an immense amount as soon as the automobile, produces technology is of non into life, and thousands of legal apparatus imported actions. in fines and police-court involved criminal citizens become a increase in the amount of ritual habit This means corresponding and so to life, and a new ritual habit must be conscious, necessary or unconscious. automatic Science it becomes before constraining, into society the con the latter, introduce and technology, especially social change, change with logical consequences ception of directed turn on the increase of ritual to it. These attached consequences habit. And as long as ritual habit can still be seen as an imminent can be we may or may not as acquire, there possibility, something or repugnance. an emotional attitude toward it either of acceptance as The direction of social change may be thought of as exhilarating, or as horrible, as in pessimistic or ap in most theories of progress, that whether the social theories. Or it may be thought prehensive so on the attitude or bad will is direction of change depend good it. If the attitude is active and resolute, itmay be ciety takes toward good; if helpless and ignorant, bad. enters this argument when A certain amount of claustrophobia it is realized, as it is from about 1850 on, that technology tends to an isolated utopia The conception of like unify the whole world. or Plato or Bacon in the face that of More evaporates gradually come two kinds of ro of this fact. Out of this situation utopian a world-state mance: the straight utopia, which visualizes assumed to be ideal, or at least ideal in comparison with what we have, and satire or parody, which the same kind of the Utopian presents social goal in terms of slavery, tyranny, or anarchy. Examples of the former in the literature of the last century include Bellamy's and H. G. Wells' Backward, Morris' News from Nowhere, Looking is one of the few writers who have con A Modern Wells Utopia. of the utopian structed both serious and satirical utopias. Examples 326

Varieties of Literary UtopiasBrave New World, include Zamiatin's We, Aldous Huxley's are other types of utopian satire and George Orwell's 1984. There we shall mention a moment, kind is a in but this particular which sense that the of modern society, its growing product technological same social fate with no place to to the is destined whole world that technology moves toward realization hide, and its increasing the control not merely of the mind. of nature but of the operations We may note that what is a serious utopia to its author, and to many emotional of its readers, could be read as a satire by a reader whose attitudes were different. Looking Backward had, in its day, a stimu on the social influence thinking of the lating and emancipating time in a way that very few books in the history of literature have ever had. Yet most of us today would tend to read it as a sinister its industrial of tyranny, with "army," its stentorian blueprint over the to the homes delivered of its "telephone" propaganda satire a close connection with the utopia had nineteenth-century and shared its tendency to of socialist political growth thought terms. When think in global attacked socialism Engels "utopian" it with his own "scientific" kind, his scientific social and contrasted in the sense in which we are using that term, but ism was utopian what he rejected under the category of "utopian" was the tendency to think in terms of a delimited socialist society, a place of refuge as for Marxist of Fourier. For Engels, like the phalansteries think a world-wide ers there was historical process going in a generally, certain direction; and humanity had the choice either of seizing in a revolutionary act or of this process and directing into drifting or slavery. The a classless in which greater anarchy goal, society the state had withered the means to away, was utopian; adopted "scientific" and anti-utopian, reach this goal were the dismissing a of setting up a utopia within world. pre-socialist possibility are concerned We here with utopian social literature, not with attitudes; but literature is rooted in the social attitudes of its time. we notice In the literature of the democracies that Utopian today satire is very prominent William Lord of (for example, Golding's but that there is something the Flies), of a paralysis of utopian can this unless thought and imagination. We hardly understand we realize the extent to which it is the result of a of repudiation In the United Communism. States the attitude toward particularly a definite is anti-utopian: social ideal as a planned such an goal can it is widely in practice some form of ideal, felt, produce only 327 citizens, The and the like.

NORTHROP FRYE state. And whereas totalitarian the Communist calls for program a seizure of the machinery of production, there is a revolutionary in the democracies that the utopian strong popular feeling goal can be reached to of production the machinery only by allowing as an automatic function by itself, and continuous process. Further, it is often felt that such an automatic process tends to decentralize This and break down monopolies of political power. authority of an anti-utopian attitude toward centralized combination planning and a utopian attitude toward the economic process naturally creates some inconsistencies. in Houston, I was told When I was recently a laws: that indicates that Houston had no zoning strongly anti was in Houston, sentiment Houston sewers, yet utopian building centers in the clover-leaf and shopping intersections, highways, most uninhibited utopian way. There is however of a donkey's carrot in attaching something to a of production utopian feeUngs largely concerned machinery can see this if we look at some of the We with consumer goods. romances of the last century. The utopia has utopian technological are one its predictions to fall short of literary disadvantage: likely saw in the the writer what comes true, so that what glow of vision we see as a crude version of life. Thus Edgar Allan ordinary only at a hundred miles in balloons Poe has people crossing the Atlantic an hour one thousand years after his own time. I could describe it is a form of ritual the way I get to work in the morning, because in the idiom of a utopia, riding on a subway, guiding myself habit, of social signs, and the like, showing how the element at every point. It might conditions sound my behavior design a century ago, or now to it as a prophecy if I had written utopian so to my a native of a New Guinea jungle, but it would hardly do the prediction of the radio (called, readers. Similarly with present in Bel as noted above, the which had been invented) telephone, said Backward (1888). A slightly earlier romance, lamy's Looking to be the original of Bellamy's book, is The Diothas? by John MacNie use of a horseless a a It predicts (1883)*. carriage, with general an hour One passage of twenty miles (faster downhill). speed to us could be shows very clearly how something commonplace of a Utopian romance in 1883: part by"You * see the white knowledge line running of The along Diothas, the and centre much of the road," in this resumed paper, to I owe else



the admirable collection The Quest for Utopia, An Anthology of Imaginary Societies by Glenn Negley and J. Max Patrick (New York: Schuman, 1952). 328

Varieties of Literary UtopiasUtis. "The rule of the road requires that line to be kept on the left, except when passing a vehicle in front. Then the line may be crossed, providedthe way on that side is clear."

the wildest has advanced far beyond utopian technology even of the last century, the essential quality of human life has hardly improved to the point that it could be called utopian. The real strength and importance both for of the utopian imagination, literature and for life, if it has any at all, must lie elsewhere. in practice The popular view of the utopia, and the one which not most is that a utopia is is accepted if utopia-writers, by many an ideal or flawless state, not in its structure only logically consistent as much but permitting for its inhabitants freedom and happiness as is as a final or definitive to human life. Considered social possible ideal, the utopia is a static society; and most utopias have built-in of the structure. This feature safeguards against radical alteration it a somewhat forbidding quality to a reader not yet committed gives a to it. An imaginary dialogue between and such a utopia-writer as follows: Reader: "I can see that somewhat reader might begin this society might work, but I wouldn't want to live in it."Writer: is that you don't want your present ritual habits "What you mean feel different from the inside, where the disturbed. My utopia would and so carry with them a sense of ritual habits would be customary sense freedom rather than constraint." Reader: "Maybe so, but my now is derived not in your freedom involved of from right being or I'd be too unconscious society. If I were, I'd either feel constraint to be living a life at all." If this argument went on, fully human some compromise might be reached: the writer might realize that on a sense of constraint, and the reader freedom really depends a realize that utopia should not be read simply as a descrip might it to be one. tion of a most perfect state, even if the author believes is imaginative, with its roots in literature, and the Utopian thought is less concerned with ends than with literary imagination achieving dreams visualizing possibilities. There are many reasons why an encouragement of utopian think would be of considerable benefit to us. An example would be ing an to see what the social results of automation be, attempt might or be made to be; and surely some speculation might along this to self-preservation. line is almost essential the intellectual Again, of the "two cultures" is said to be a separation problem of our time, but this separation is inevitable, it is going steadily to increase, not and it cannot possibly be cured read decrease, by having humanists 329

But while

NORTHROP FRYE more science or scientists read more poetry. The real prob popular or vice versa, but the lem is not the humanist's ignorance of science of both humanist and scientist about the society of which ignorance social imagina they are both citizens. The quality of an intellectual's tion is the as a thinker, whatever of his maturity his bril quality liance in his own Une. In the year that Orwell George published in the utopian 1984, two other books appeared tradition, one by a Robert Graves' Watch the North Wind humanist, Rise, the other a social scientist, B. F. Skinner's Waiden Neither book was Two. by intended very seriously: they reflect the current view that utopian that both books thinking is not serious. It is all the more significant see show the infantilism as an of specialists who society merely extension of their own speciality. The Graves book is about the revival of mother cults in Crete, and its preoccupation goddess with the more it almost of the past makes superstitions lugubrious a caricature of the of humanism. Skinner's book shows how pedantry to children's will power by hanging develop lollipops around their necks and giving them rewards for not eating them: its Philistine it a caricature of the of social science. The vulgarity makes pedantry the effort at social imagination, is an area in which utopia, special can meet and ized disciplines with a mutual respect interpenetrate for each other, concerned with social con their common clarifyingtext.

The word "imaginative" like refers to hypothetical constructions, those of literature or mathematics. refers to The word "imaginary" of utopias that does not exist. Doubtless many writers something tiiink of their state as something does not exist but which that they rather wish did exist; hence their intention as writers is descriptive than constructive. But we cannot possibly the utopia as a discuss on this existential basis. We have to see literary genre negatively it as a species of the constructive and we should literary imagination, the utopian writer's mind expect to find that the more penetrating a that he is communicating he understands is, the more clearly a power or vision to his readers, not dream with sharing fantasy them. n an argument Plato's Republic between Socrates begins with over the nature at of justice. Thrasymachus and Thrasymachus to show that justice is a verbal and not very successfully, tempts, for certain social purposes, and that used rhetorical conception 330

Varieties of Literary Utopiasthere is no such thing as justice. He has to use words existentially to say this, and the words he uses are derived from, and uncon a discussion the assumptions started by Socrates. of, sciously accept So Socrates has little in demonstrating that in the verbal difficulty is employing has its normal place, pattern Thrasymachus justice associated with all other good and real things. Others in the group are not satisfied that an existential situation can be so easily refuted an essentialist argument, and they attempt to restate Thrasyma by chus' position. to the end, but Socrates' argument remains essential a it takes the form of another kind of verbal pattern, descriptive of a state in which The is the existential model justice principle. so then arises: what to existing relation has this model question

ciety?the obvious answer is the right one, Plato's imagi is the ideal society that we do not live in but ought nary Republic to be so readers would it, for Plato's living in. Not many accept state has in full measure we have noted the forbidding quality that as a characteristic see most of utopias. Surely people today would use of lies for in its rigorous autocracy, its unscrupulous propaganda, its ruthlessly censored of all the creative art, and its subordination life of the state to a fanatical military and productive caste, all the evils that we call totalitarian. Granted all the Greek fascination with If what the fact that Sparta defeated is Athens us want to adopt so many of the features hardly of that hideous Plato admits that dictatorial community. tyranny is like his state-pattern to the wrong men. But to as entrusted very sume much of a difference between tyranny and Plato's state we should have to believe in the perfectibility of intellectuals, which neither history nor experience us much to do. gives encouragement We that as early as the Fifth Book Socrates notice, however, has begun to deprecate the question of the practicability of estab on the his Republic, that thought is one thing and lishing ground action another. And, as the argument goes on there is an increas on the of the just state to the wise man's mind. ing emphasis analogy of philosopher, The hierarchy guard, and artisan in the just state to the hierarchy of reason, will, and appetite in the corresponds individual. And the disciplined is the only individual disciplined free individual. The free man is free because his chaotic and lust ful desires are hunted down and exterminated, or else compelled to express themselves in ways the of his prescribed by dictatorship reason. He is free because a will is ready to powerful spring into 331 the myth of Lycurgus, enough to make seems

NORTHROP FRYE reason do whatever it sees fit, acting as a kind of help to related every impulse not directly thought police suppressing its immediate interests. It is true that what frees the individual seems to enslave goes all wrong with society, and that something human freedom when we take an and individual analogy between social order literally. But Plato is from his social really arguing to the individual, model not from the individual to society. The action to of Homer and the other poets, for example, illustrates censorship how the wise man uses literature, what he accepts and rejects of own beliefs, it in rather than what society ought to do forming his to literature. At the end of the Ninth Book we reach what is the as the Tenth Book raises end of the Republic for our purposes, our present issues beyond it is made clear that the scope. There exists in the present, not in the future. It is not a dream Republic to be realized in practice; it is an in the mind: informing power I understand; you speak of that city of which we are the founders, and which exists in idea only; for I do not think that there is such an one anywhere on earth.

In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of such a city, and he who desires may behold this, and beholding, govern himself accord there really is or ever will be such an one is of no ingly. But whether importance to hirru for he will act accorcling ta \b& laws of that city andof no other.

(Jowett tr.) that polarize In Christianity the two myths social thought, the contract and the utopia, the myth of origin and the myth of telos, or are in their forms. The myth undisplaced given purely mythical in the myth of creation, and of placing man of contract becomes the ensuing fall being the result of a breach the garden of Eden, Instead of the utopia we have the City of God, of the contract. a in St. Augustine. most utopian metaphor elaborately developed To this city men, or some men, are admitted at the end of time, but is entirely it in its of reaching of course human nature incapable it. Still, the attainment much less of establishing state, present as a form of in literature must be classified of the City of God its most famous literary treatment being the Purga utopian fiction, of the millennium, the torio and Paradiso of Dante. The conception on earth, comes closer to the to be established Messianic kingdom idea of the utopia, but that again does conventional on human effort. primarily The church, in this scheme of things, is not a utopian 332 not depend but


Varieties of Literary Utopiasthan ordinary society; and it is a more ritualized community highly to the relation of Plato's its relation to the latter has some analogies to the individual mind. That is, it acts as an informing Republic on society, it closer to the pattern of the City of power drawing as ?lite societies a small in which God. Most utopias are conceived and this ?lite is is entrusted with essential responsibilities, group as in India, some analogy For in Utopia, of a priesthood. usually vides caste has reached the highest the priestly di place. H. G. Wells or executive, into the Poietic, or creative, the Kinetic, society version of and the Base. This reads like an uncharitable the Dull,

the four Indian castes?particularly uncharitable that considering inWells' is the rejection the only essential doctrine utopian religion in general sin. Wells' the common illustrates of original writing that the belief that man is by nature good does not lead principle to a very view of man. In any case his "samurai" be good-natured to the first group, in spite of their warrior name. The long utopias are controlled of science fiction of by scientists, who generally course are another form of ?lite. priestly the monastic ritualized Another society, community, highly as a some not intended characteristics. utopia, has utopian though time within Its members life takes it; individual spend their whole certain activities of the civilized its pattern from the community; land, copying manuscripts, reclaiming good life, farming, gardening, form part of its structure. The influence of the monastic teaching, enormous. on utopian It is strong in community thought has been in Campanula's More's Utopia, and much stronger City of the Sun, on the conceived ismore explicitly of the church and which analogy of the ideal society as a secularized re The conception monastery. the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience versal of the monastery, into economic and per security, monogamous marriage, transposed in Rabelais' scheme for the sonal independence, appears Abbey of inmany like this re-appears Th?l?me. Something nineteenth-century not only the literary ones but in the more explicitly po Utopias, litical schemes of St. Simon, Fourier, and Comte, of whose writings it seems safe to say that they lack Rabelais' lightness of touch. The with its mixture of the monastery, of the elective and government is still going strong as a social model the dictatorial in principles, satire sometimes Past and Present. introduces Utopian Carlyle's as in 1984 and in celibate groups of fanatics by way of parody, Huxley's Ape and Essence. It is obvious from what we have said that a Christian in utopia, 333

NORTHROP FRYE the sense of an ideal state to be attained in human life, is impossi if it were possible it would and be the kingdom of heaven, to realize it on earth would chief end of man. Hence be the trying as a Christian More does not present his Utopia state: it is a state, as we remarked the natural virtues are allowed earlier, in which to assume their natural forms. In that case, what is the point of the a Christian is certainly which book? Some critics feel that Utopia, it only as a jeu More could have meant for an in-group d'espirit of humanist But that conception it something intellectuals. makes more trivial than and that More would write or Rabelais anything Erasmus much The second book of Utopia must have appreciate. as the trenchant been intended quite as social criticism seriously of the first. ble: We between who note a the Utopia, first-person narrator that again, and a takes the guide. The form of a dialogue guide is Hythloday,

to Utopia, and whose of it takes up the description is More himself. In the first book the second book. The narrator are of the two men is social attitudes contrasted. More skillfully a reformer; he feels that a should use his gradualist, Hythloday in and knowledge the princes of Europe on the experience advising of social justice. Hythloday has come back from Utopia principles a convinced communist and a revolutionary. All Europe's misery, to private and hypocrisy from its attachment blundering, spring can be done, and unless this is renounced property: nothing good as this renunciation is unlikely he sees no hope for Europe. At the he himself remarks that although end More has not been con there are many all-out utopianism, verted to Hythloday's things in that he would hope for rather than expect to see in his own Utopia seems clear that the ideal state to More, society. The implication as to Plato, is not a future ideal but a one, an inform hypothetical and not a goal of action. For More, as for Plato, Utopia ing power sense which, once of justice and common is the kind of model in the mind, It does clarifies its standards and values. estabUshed not lead to a desire to abolish sixteenth-century Europe and replace and to work within it with Utopia, but it enables one to see Europe, more clearly. As H. G. Wells it is of his Utopia, it, says good disci to enter it occasionally. pline an element in More's is however construct of paradox There state is not eutopia, the good that is absent from Plato's. More's It is achieved the natural virtues but utopia, nowhere. by place, and its eclectic state its toleration without revelation, (in religion, has been 334

Varieties of Literary Utopiasits married of suicide and divorce, circumstances) priest that it is not, like the all mean and its epicurean philosophy hood, laws More himself, or his readers, the invisible city whose Republic, would and constantly obey. It has often been pointed continually causes. The to some very un-Utopian out that More died a martyr like this: Europe has revelation, is something of the paradox point but the natural basis of its society is an extremely rickety structure; it ought to than Utopia to greater wisdom and if Europe pretends in have at least something of the Utopian solidity and consistency in it shares with Utopia. the wisdom This paradoxical argument on the cannibals, where it in More essay re-appears Montaigne's is demonstrated that cannibals have many virtues we have not, and to be cannibals we should have at least something if we disdain returns from the society of ra of those virtues. Similarly Gulliver a hatred tional horses to that of human beings passionate feeling not of the human race, as careless readers of Swift are apt to say, but certain of its pride, In most including utopias its pride in not being horses. over the individual: state predominates held in common and the characteristic features are and freedom of movement, leisure, privacy, Most of this is, once more, the result of simply its conventions: is de the utopia and accepting a unified society, not individual varieties of ex the

is usually property of individual life, as a rule minimized. a utopia writing to describe signed as in a social istence. Still, the sense of the individual submerged as soon as we mass is very strong. But of adopt the principle which Plato sets forth in his Ninth Book, the relation paradeigma of society to individual is reversed. The ideal state now becomes an element in the liberal education of the individual free man, per mittingfore.

him a greater

liberty of mental


than he had be

The Republic into built up by Socrates and entered by his hearers is derived from their ability to see society on two levels, a lower natural level and an upper ideal level. What gives them the to perceive this upper level is education. The vision of the ability is inextricably bound up with a Republic theory of education. The senses the "actual" or objective state of perceive bodily things; the the intelligible world. And soul, through education, perceives though are Platonists, not all utopia-writers their nearly all of them make on education for their permanent establishment. depend utopias It seems clear that the literary convention of an ideal state is really a of a systematic view of education. That is, education, by-product 335

NORTHROP FRYE as a unified view of its intelli reality, grasps society by is a projection of than its actual form, and the utopia gible and bodies, of buildings the ability to see society, not as an aggregate itself but as a structure of arts and sciences. The thought suggests in our we have mentioned in utopian that the paralysis imagination a confusion the ob about both with society may be connected considered rather system. jectives and the inner structure of our educational a utopian It is a theory of education, in any case, that connects a is abundantly clear in Plato with of contract. This myth myth is the utopian and educational and later in Rousseau, whose Emile of his Contrat social. In the sixteenth century, Machia counterpart form a and More's velli's Prince, Castiglione's Courtier, Utopia a contract the first two providing well-unified Renaissance trilogy, based on the two structure respectively, and an educational myth and the courtier. central facts of Renaissance the prince society, set Faerie Queene, Other Renaissance such as Spenser's works, tra to the utopian forth a social ideal and so belong peripherally dition, but are based on an educational myth rather than a utopian as he says in his letter to Raleigh, one. For the Classical Spenser, the model was not Plato's Republic but Xenophon's Cyropaedia, ideal education of the ideal prince. and the utopia myth, we Both the contract myth said, derive own society, or at least if from an analysis of the mythmaker's they of the contract do not they have little social point. The overtones than anyone I the writer is much more unless complacent myth, are tragic. All contract their origin have read, theories, whatever or direction, of a social condition have to account for the necessity a desirable, or even possible, far below what one could imagine as an element in of what ideal. The contract myth thus incorporates as the fall of man. the corresponding appears myth religious of law, or is a form which toward an epiphany proceeds Tragedy and a contract at least of something inevitable and ineluctable; a one. The telos myth is comic in di is by definition legal myth of something better. rection: it moves toward the actualizing to assume some kind of contract theory Any serious utopia has is wrong with as the complement of itself, if only to explain what is going to improve. But the vision the state of things the utopia the con of something better has to appeal to some contract behind has lost, forfeited, which tract, something society rejected, existing the utopia or violated, itself is to restore. The ideal or and which that is, seen in the utopia has to be recognized, desirable quality


Varieties of Literary Utopiasas a latent as that the reader can understand something manifesting or in his own society and his own thinking. Thus element potential takes off from a rather gloomy and cynical con Plato's Republic and tract from the sophists by Glaucon theory, adapted apparently Socrates refute it. But the of hearing Adeimantus for the pleasure for it restores a state of vision of justice which Socrates substitutes this contract earlier than anything theory refers to. This things in the Laws state is associated the Golden Age with antecedent in the two sequels to the Republic, the story of Atlantis of course, the In the Christian myth, and the Critias. ideal state is that of paradise. We have now to try to pre-contract in the utopian myth, or Golden Age element isolate the paradisal it to fruition. the seed which brings and with the Timaeus

IllThe utopian writer looks at the ritual habits of his own society tries to see what be like if these ritual habits society would and more made more consistent inclusive. But it is possible to think of a ritual habits as not so much inconsistent good many as unnecessary or superstitious. Some social habits express the needs of society; others express its anxieties. And although we tend to at to our anxieties than to our needs tach more emotional importance or are or anxieties beliefs, many genuine entirely unreal. largely in his community, of the role of women Plato's conception what ever one thinks of it, was an break from extraordinary imaginative the anxieties of Athens with its almost Oriental seclusion of married women. writer has to struggle with the anxieties sug Every utopian to him by his own society, trying to the moral gested distinguish from the conventional, what would be really disastrous from what a vague or ridicule. of panic, uneasiness, inspires merely feeling So far we have been considering the typical utopia, the rational or world-state, and the utopian satire which is a product of a city the Frankenstein modern fear, specifically myth of the enslavement and by his perverse desire to build of man by his own technology himself an ingenious for the pleasure of getting trap merely caught in it. But another kind of utopian satire is obviously one possible, social rituals are seen from the outside, not to make them in which and were more consistent but simply to demonstrate their inconsistency, their or their Satire of this kind holds up a mirror unreality. hypocrisy, to society which it distorts An it, but distorts consistently. early is Bishop Hall's Mundus Alter et Idem (1605), much ridi example 337

NORTHROP FRYE but perhaps more of an influence on him than he by Milton, to admit. A more famous one is Gullivers Travels, willing so the first part, the voyage to LiUiput. The Lilliputian especially with its rituals is essentially the society of Swift's England, ciety to the ridicule of In the voyage looked at satirically. Brobdingnag the gigantic is softened down, in the portrayal of the king society even minimized, thrown on Gulliver's the satirical emphasis being account of his own society. The shift of emphasis indicates the close connection between this kind of satire and utopian fiction, the con so nection being much closer in the last part, where the rational is contrasted with the Yahoos. of the Houyhnhnms ciety we have an In Butler's Erewhon, of the again, early example are or satire: the Erewhonians contemporary utopian technological out elabo and their philosophers have worked afraid of machines, to prove that machines rate arguments will eventually take over if not in time. We could in fact trace this theme back to suppressed the flying island of Laputa demon Travels Gullivers itself, where strates some of the perils in combining human mechanical ingenuity to the adheres with human folly and greed. But most of Erewhon culed was The Erewhonians, for example, earlier tradition of the mirror-satire. treat disease as a crime and crime as a disease, but they do so with use in same rationalizations that the Victorians exactly the enforcing the opposite procedure. out this line of thought, perhaps what ails ordinary Following is not the inconsistency but the multiplicity of its ritual society habits. If so, then the real social ideal would be a greatly simplified society, and the quickest way to utopia would be through providing and organization. of social structure This the absolute minimum even is of of the ideal society as simplified, primitive, conception than the utopia which in litera far more itself, literary importance ture is a relatively minor genre never quite detached from political con is the basis of the pastoral For the simplified society theory. one of the central conventions of literature at every stage vention, of its development. the city is the form of the myth of telos, the New In Christianity But there is no that is the end of the human pilgrimage. Jerusalem or Judaeo-Christian, myth of origin: that has city in the Christian, a of what was clearly intended and the two progenitors only garden, to be a simple and patriarchal follows, society. In the story which the story of Cain and Abel, Abel is a shepherd and Cain a farmer build cities and develop the arts. The murder of whose descendants 338

Varieties of Literary UtopiasAbel out of an idealized pastoral the blotting appears to symbolize the a more In Classical mythology civilization. society by complex to which we have re as the Golden original society appears Age, a ferred more than once, and primitive society with again peaceful out the of later ones. In both our main literary tra complications to see the ideal society in terms of the tendency ditions, therefore, a lost a simple paradise has ready origin. so was urban and In the Renaissance, when society strongly focused on the capital city and on the court in the center centripetal, an alternative ideal which was not of it, the pastoral established term Ar and which we might by the distinguish strictly utopian, cadian. The characteristics of this ideal were simplicity and equality: it was a distinction of class, engaged society of shepherds without in a life that and of leisure. The the maximum of peace permitted were as these arts appeared in this society spontaneously, shepherds to have natural musical assumed and poetic gifts. In most utopias the relation of the sexes is hedged around with the strictest regula tions, even taboos; in the pastoral, though the Courtly Love theme of love frustrated is prominent, it is assumed that making devotion than is a major occupation, much more time and attention requiring the sheep, and thus more important than the economic productivity of society. that the utopia hardly The Arcadia has two ideal characteristics if ever has. In the first place, it puts an emphasis on the integration is a city, and it The utopia environment. of man with his physical over nature, the domination rather the human ascendancy expresses In mental of the environment patterns. by abstract and conceptual the pastoral, man is at peace with nature, which that he is implies also at peace with his own nature, the reasonable and the natural or ig A pastoral associated. become society might being stupid In the second place, the pas but it could hardly go mad. norant, human desires, throws more stress on the sat toral, by simplifying as remain, of such desires of course, sexual isfaction especially, as the it can accommodate, desire. Thus cannot, typical utopia and furtive social ideal known as the of that outlawed something Land of Cockayne, the fairyland where all desires can be instantly gratified. This is an ideal halfway the paradisal between and the is seldom taken seriously. The reason is that it does pastoral not derive from an analysis of the writer's present society, but is a dream or wish-fulfillment In the fourteenth fantasy. primarily last and 339

NORTHROP FRYE roast geese walk The Land of Cockayne, to the the line of descent their edibility: advertising is clear enough. The same theme exists in shmoos of "Li'l Abner" a more it tends to be an reflective and sentimental form, where a childhood memory. or This theme vision, often illusory vanishing as a social clich? and in the is common literature which popular the cottage away from it all, happy days social clich?s: expresses on the farm, the and the Uke. A great open spaces of the west, is James Hilton's and well-known Lost typical literary example a neo-Kantian of both ends, so to speak, with Horizon, kingdom its mixture of Oriental wisdom and American But plumbing. more to social mythology the Land of Cockayne though belongs than to the imaginative it is a genuine of literature, mythology and we shall meet other forms of it. ideal, an Spenser's Faerie Queene, example of the already alluded to, is common sort of courtier-literature in the Renaissance, which had for its theme the idealizing of the court or the reigning monarch. This literature was not directly utopian, but its imaginative prem ises were allied to the utopia. That is, it assumed that for mankind the state of nature is the state of society and of civilization and whether man is in his nature good or bad, life can be improved that, no by improving his institutions. The pastoral, though of importance that the state of nevertheless politically, kept open the suggestion nature and the state of society were different, perhaps opposing as in states. The pastoral was allied to the spirit of satire which, Praise of Folly Erasmus' and Cornelius of the Vanity Agrippa's called the whole of civilization Arts and Sciences, value into century around poem called question. In the both assumed these two attitudes century eighteenth and met in a head-on collision. The eighteenth importance, political of the pastoral myth was the conception of the century descendant "natural society" in Bolingbroke, and later in Rousseau. Here the natural state of man is thought of as distinct from and, so to speak, the state of society. The state of nature is reasonable, underlying

and pointless the state of society full of anomalies The inequalities. or traditional view to this is, in Great Britain, conservative opposed in Burke, who, most articulate and in following Montesquieu, to the principles of the French Revolution, that asserted opposition the same thing. the state of nature and the state of society were one of contract the two views is primarily between The difference For Burke the existing social order in any nation is that theory. 340

Varieties of Literary Utopiasa corruption it is essentially for Rousseau real contract: nation's im For Burke of its contract. The telos myths differ accordingly. structure. if we preserve the existing is possible provement only This is not a utopian view, but it is not necessarily anti-utopian: of institu of the improvability it still keeps the utopian premise an tions. For Rousseau the telos myth becomes revolutionary: only the natural and of the existing social order can manifest overthrow social order that it has disguised. reasonable is a pastoral Travels satire repre The fourth book of Gullivers to the pastoral conception of a the conservative opposition senting natural society. The Yahoo is the natural man, man as he would be an animal, and if he were purely filthy, treacherous, disgusting. more than the Yahoos, but what he learns Gulliver has intelligence is that his nature the Houyhnhnms is es from his sojourn with nature. His he discovers, is Yahoo intelligence, nothing sentially he can take pride in, for human beings back home make "no other use of reason than to improve and multiply those vices whereof in this country had only the share that nature al their brethren if it could be attained at all, lotted them." The natural society, some kind of animal like the could be attained only by Houyhn reason not a the disciplines hnm, who possessed genuine needing can live in a of state and church. The Houyhnhnms genuinely human beings have to put up with the curse of world; pastoral civilization. after the In The terms of this argument naturally changed introduced the conception which dustrial Revolution, of revolu led to the present into society. This division of tionary process the Marxist as social attitudes mentioned above, between utopia in the belief distant end and the common American utopianizing often taking the form of a of the productive process, tendency in America standards of living can be reached belief that utopian shaken by every alone. This belief, his though rudely disruptive crash of 1929, still torical event at least since the stock market an obstinate and resilient confidence. The popular Amer inspires as different ican view and the Communist one, superficially they that to increase man's control have in common the assumption are, The is also to increase over his environment this assumption refusal to accept satire. utopian Whatever state Utopian thought of affairs in democratic and his control is the principle over his destiny. of modern this af

has survived imagination literature has been much more


NORTHROP FRYE or Arcadian con themes than by the utopian by pastoral stress on lim of the rational city. Both Plato and More ception lay to what would now be called an iting the city-state "optimum" size. And almost anyone today, the problems of present-day considering soon find himself would "too many society, saying people." He a some disaster could hardly visualize without utopia assuming that would the population?at did not reduce least, those who it a disaster. Thus Don survive might consider reasonably Marquis, a United in The Almost Perfect State, States with a total speaks of that a more desirable of five million. The assumption population one marks must be a the influence of the society greatly simplified tradition. pastoral We do find in fact a type of utopian satire based on the theme of cyclical return: contemporary civilization goes to pieces with an conditions crash, and life starts again under primitive appalling like those of some earlier period of history. The best story of this type I know is Richard Jeffries' After London, but the theme enters the Robert Graves book referred to earlier and is a common one in fected A Canticle for Leibo stories, especially Re-Birth). And industrial utopias, with their and happy in crowds and fast-talking clicking machinery factory an occasional A Crystal one, such as W. H. Hudson's terpreters, takes a different tone, and reminds us that ideals of peace, Age, to be squeezed and quiet are too important into a few dignity, intervals of bustling routine. the one which shows pastoral Of the famous utopias, influence is William most Morris' News This Nowhere. from consistently as a reaction to written work was, significantly, Bellamy's Looking it scandalized the Com and, even more Backward, significantly, witz munist The Commonweal, in which of Morris' magazine, associates to visualize It was an attempt the ultimate it appeared. utopian after the classless Communism society had been reached, goal of he thinks the social concep and the reader is not asked whether or not he likes the but simply whether tion practicable, picture. more is considerably anarchist than Communist: the The picture is the sole source of a completely decentralized local community economic and the centralizing tendencies have disap authority, ones. There a the political with is, in other words, along peared Morris minimum of industrial and factory production. started out, "Who are the workers?" the Marxist not with but with question 342 science fiction (for example, Walter and some of John Wyndham's even in the nineteenth-century Miller's

Varieties of Literary UtopiasIt is "What is work?" revolutionary question but simply Socrates never asked this question, perhaps took the agenda of the work done in his own society as the basis of his definition of justice, that Plato's Republic is the authoritarian it is. Morris was structure influenced though he by Carlyle, who, to imply that all work was tended and unpleasant work good, in to the moral beneficial still did succeed, fiber, particularly as well as in Sartor Resartus, work from drudgery distinguishing a from idleness. Ruskin, deal of dithering, though also with good never that Morris this up, and established the principle followed is creative is from: work of what act, the expression departed creative in the worker. Any work that falls short of this is drudgery, deeply because is exploitation, and drudgery the only the mechanical, producing and the useless. We notice that inMorris we need an esthetic, ugly, and hence criterion to make social any significant imaginative, was to Morris in craftsmanship the pleasure judgment. According what kept the medieval workers from revolution: this leads to the inference that, in an exploiting society, genuine work is unexpected the opiate of the people. In the society of the future, however, work has become a direct expression of the controlled energy of conscious life. state "manufacture" has become hand work, and the are still called the minor or lesser of production is in what those that are directly related to living conditions. In terms arts, of the societies we know, Morris' ideal is closer to the Scandinavian or the American. of life than to the Russian To make crafts way the basis of industry implies an immense of manship simplification human wants?this in Morris' is the pastoral element vision. The has stabilized because population people have stopped exploiting their sexual instincts as well as each other's work. has be England come a green and even seems to have pleasant land?something a to the climate?with great deal of fresh air and exer happened theme of the unity of man and physical cise. The pastoral nature the corner, perhaps, is very prominent. Around looms the specter of In Morris' basis and similar forms of endless picnics and jolly community gatherings even to extroverted cheer; but the sense of this is hardly oppressive a reader. There is a certain anti-intellectual cynical quality, perhaps, in the rather childlike their carefree of inhabitants, ignorance and their neglect of the whole side of edu history contemplative at the end that cation. It is briefly this society suggested perhaps to take account of the more con will need to mature sufficiently the more


NORTHROP FRYE virtues if it is to escape the danger of losing its inheri templative an uncritical as Adam did, of curiosity. tance, perverseness through we are indebted of the In the meantime to the most unreligious of for one of the most great English writers pictures convincing the state of innocence. The social ideal is an essential and primary human ideal, but it is not the only one, nor does it necessarily include the others. as a Human fulfillment has a singular and a dual form as well one. Marvell's and "The Garden" of individual poem plural speaks in which one is detached fulfillment from society and reaches solitary a silent into nature which the poet symbolizes by incorporation the word "green." It is further suggested that this solitary apotheosis was the God created state, before a blundering genuine paradisal into a suburban development Eve and turned Eden of the City of a sexual fulfill Yet the creation of Eve, in itself, introduced God. as man remained ment which, as Unf?llen, had no objective long and itself. Theoretically, the higher recognize beyond religions in for these dreams of lost solitary and sexual paradises; provide tend to be socially obsessed. practice, being socially organized, they to Communism is opposed and other forms of state Christianity but church and family are social units. Tradi worship, equally as a frowns on the sexual relationship except tionally, Christianity means the family, and on the solitary illumination of producing as a If even religion of socially accepted belief. except variety into the social and the anti-social, tends to divide human impulses we can from ordinary hardly expect more tolerance society, which is a neurotically and resentful of any sign jealous mistress, suspicious a less of preferring experience. gregarious to hover around the locked Yet less socialized ideals continue to elude the angels of anxiety and of their garden, gates trying some the pastoral imaginative they achieve censorship. Through and it is largely its connection with the pastoral that expression, a book so central and so subversive in makes Thoreau's Waiden a American culture. The theme of the sage who makes voluntary self in a context break with society in order to discover his genuine in the Orient is common and has been a of solitude and nature on the arts there, but it is rare in the West. Even influence major at the he has much of the theory, Wordsworth, though speaks, more as someone on sab and elsewhere, of the Prelude opening leave from society than as someone aloof from it. Thoreau batical a social detachment, achieves and has the sensitive, genuine loving 344

Varieties of Literary Utopiasthe pastoral at its best. What kinship with nature that characterizes im is the social criticism makes him relevant to a paper on utopias in his book. He sets out to show how little a man actually plied for the greatest needs for the best life, best in the sense of providing one And while amount of physical and mental well-being. possible there in economy, over the details of his experiment may quarrel is no doubt that he makes his main point. Man obviously far less for the best life than he thinks needs on the tech as we know it is he needs; and civilization grounded wants. In fact of complicating nique in America, to be the American believed, Thoreau says: "the only true America a mode are at of liberty to pursue such do without is widely technique of life par excellence. way is that country where you life as may enable you to this

to the state does not endeavour these, and where to sustain the slavery, and war, and other superfluous compel you or result from the use of such expenses which indirectly directly tradition is still at work in this The pastoral revolutionary things." to the natural and reasonable remark, still pointing society buried the place of human the false one. For Thoreau beneath identity is but the home. In constructing not the city or even the community, to build still the while be worth his cabin he remarks: "It would more than I did, considering, for instance, what foun deliberately a cellar, a dation a door, a window, garret, have in the nature of a social the standards and values are that make man." Whatever cannot appear unless the essence they It is its from non-essentials. separated feeling that makes the pastoral essential convention and no book has expressed this feeling more than Waiden. uncompromisingly itself to the theme of individual devotes its Waiden fulfillment: is implicit only and the complications in human social criticism existence caused by the sexual instinct are not dealt with at all. as to see the sexual in itself, The attempt relationship something as a kind of social and not merely is that relationship, something a to the work of D. H. Lawrence. gives strongly pastoral quality is natural in the sense that it has its For him the sexual relation closest and most immediate affinities with the physical environment, and plants and walks the world of animals in the country and and rain. The idyllic sense of this world as sunshine to helping true love from the and insulate of dis protect noisy city-world runs consciousness all Lawrence's embodied work from through ideal better than the reality, of society has been is socially for what central to literature, 345

NORTHROP FRYE to the late Lover. People the early White Peacock Lady Chatterley's them to be "savages," but Lawrence that he wants says, complain, on its coarse stem is not savage. Lawrence the gentian flowering has been a major influence on the social attitude which has grown up in the United States since the Second World War, and which may as a be described of Like the Marxism of Freudianism. development some extent, a democratic a revolu it is which it is, to counterpart, but unlike Marxism it imposes no specific social attitude, tionary on the person who holds it. The enemy is still the obligations as as not the but the bourgeois bourgeois, capitalist, bourgeois as the of repressive morality. Freud him representative "square," ever cease to be a repressive self had little hope that society would but some of the most uninhibited utopian anxiety-structure, thinking comes as Norman from such Freudians O. Brown {Life today and Herbert Marcuse who (Eros and Civilization), Against Death) of a non-repressive the possibility urge us at least to consider society. some manifestations move In literature, of this quasi-Freudian are like the beatniks, social ones, ment, rigidly conventionalized to us at present is relevant but what is rather the literature of of vagabondage and the picaresque in Kerouac in Mailer, the cult of violence the exploration of the struggle for a direct asocial experience and perversions, drugs which is apparently what the interest in Zen Buddhism symbolizes. The motto of all this is that of the starling in Sterne: "I can't get the claustrophobia of individual and sexual im the alien social consciousness that has created pulses imprisoned by This sounds as though the contemporary civilization. literature of was and so in many it is. protest anti-utopian, intensely respects or "Luddite" for the most part a militant It is, however, pastoralism, a way of life which has replaced the trying to break the hold of of the human body with the perspective of its mechan perspective the extensions of transportation and social ical extensions, planning are now on the and advertising which turning body and strangling it as the serpents did Laocoon. out": their form from city-states of as like the city and, though imaginary, thought being, in space. Modern locatable states, exactly utopias derive their form over the whole from a uniform pattern of civilization spread globe, so are thought of as world-states, and taking up all the available space. It is clear that if there is to be any revival of utopian imagi great utopias were 346 The classical derived it expresses the theme protest, and Henry Miller,

Varieties of Literary Utopiasfuture, it cannot return to the old-style spatial their form from the have to derive utopias. utopias would re movement of society that is gradually shifting and dissolving the fixed locations of life. They would not be rational cities placing be rooted in the evolved by a philosopher's dialectic: they would as well as the as well as in the mind, in the unconscious body in forests and deserts as well as in highways and build conscious, as well as in the ings, in bed symposium. Do you not agree, asks in the Republic, is the man who that the worst of men Socrates in waking the character of man in his dreams? But expresses reality some attention to the lawless and modern utopias will have to pay nation New lusts of the dreamer, will still be in violent for their foundations in space is "there," and "there" is the A fixed location dreamland. answer to the in fact and "where?" Utopia, only spatial question in is not a place; and when the society it seeks to etymology, it can only fit into what is everywhere, transcend is left, the in visible point in the center of space. The question non-spatial is utopia?" is the same as the question "Where is nowhere?" answer to that is "here." question only "Where and the in the near