The utopian alternatives that writers imagine are affected by many variables, such as the historical circumstances in which they write, their gender and class background, and psychological factors. These variables in turn give rise to a bewildering assortment of imagined social structures: utopian society may be centralized and regimented, or anarchic and diverse; it may be religious or secular; there may be free love or strict control of sexuality; the family may occupy a central position or it may be abolished altogether. Some utopias have detailed provisions for the distribution of wealth, while in others money and property do not exist. For all this diversity, however, one thing that exhibits far less variation is the story, the framing narrative that accounts for how the narrator or central character reaches the more perfect society and obtains the opportunity to witness its distinctive excellences. This book is about that story. It is about the curious hybrid of the traveller's tale and the classical dialogue that emerges in the Renaissance, but whose outlines remain clearly apparent even in some of the most recent utopian writing. The author investigates the ideological implications of that story, its relation to the nature of utopian desire, and the problems it continues to create even for writers who try to free themselves from its limitations. The gendered character of traditional utopian narrative is a particular concern of the study, which also provides a detailed examination of the ways in which modern feminist utopian writers have sought to rewrite what may be seen as a distinctively male myth.
Contents: The utopian dream of order: more and his successors -- Bellamy and wells: the dream of order in the modern world -- Dystopia: the dream as nightmare -- Libertarian alternatives: Morris, News from nowhere; Bogdanov, Red star; Huxley; Island -- A world of one's own: separatist utopias -- Dreams of freedom: Piercy, Le Guin, and the future of Utopia.