Irina Kaspe 1
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Utopian Reading: Towards a Hermeticity of Thomas More’s Utopia

2017, vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 101–125 [issue contents]
The article explores the specific communicative regime established in Thomas More’s Utopia. Classical utopia possesses the status of a didactic narrative which imposes a rigid pattern of perception. However, in recent decades, reception studies demonstrates that actual practices of reading utopias are various, contradictory, and often associated with confusion and a lack of understanding of the motivations for utopian writing, as well as with the recognition of its hermeticity. The conclusion which usually follows from this is that utopia implies “dialogical” reading, intentionally inspiring an active and creative reader’s response. This article provides more a radical suggestion: the type of writing used by More in his Utopia, in many respects, contradicts the value principles on which the European institute of literature was based. This is why it is difficult to apply the approaches of literary theory to classical utopia (for example, to identify the “program of reading” foreseen by the text). As a phenomenon of early modern culture, utopia, on the one hand, reflects the new patterns of personal relationship with reality (the “classical representation” issue described by Mikhail Yampolsky), and with the self (the “Renaissance self-fashioning” issue, examined by Stephen Greenblatt). On the other hand, utopia becomes an indicator of the cultural distrust of these patterns of their “illusiveness,” “fictitiousness,” or “artificiality.” As the article demonstrates, More’s Utopia absorbs new tools of representation and identity while attempting to block them at the same time. Thus, the well-known effect of hermeticity, or the “autoreference” of classical utopia, could be produced.
Citation: Kaspe I. (2017) Utopicheskoe chtenie: k voprosu o germetichnosti «Utopii» Tomasa Mora [Utopian Reading: Towards a Hermeticity of Thomas More’s Utopia]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 1, pp. 101-125 (in Russian)
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