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7 - Utopia and romance

from Part II - Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2010

Gregory Claeys
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Summary

“Romance is a figure with outstretched hands, yearning for the unattainable.” E. M. Forster, The Longest Journey / Utopia, the good place which is no place, is also the place at the end of the traditional fairy tale, where 'They all lived happily ever after.' If romance, as Forster says, is an expression of the yearning for the unattainable, then utopia is that which cannot be attained - the happy-ever-after which always eludes us no matter how near we draw to it. In utopian narratives, the blissful state fleetingly evoked in the fairy tale's final sentence is extended to a whole society, and fully and often pedantically spelt out. The fundamental purpose of both romances and utopias is to 'remake the world in the image of desire', but the image of desire in each case is very different. The heart of romance are the physical and emotional torments suffered by its heroes and heroines and their determination in the face of adversity; utopia, by contrast, portrays a collective, not individual, reward for suffering humanity as a whole. If romance is Cinderella, then utopia is a fairy godmother not just to the heroine but to the whole world. Romance and utopia have something in common but are in many ways opposites. It is with this in mind that we should approach the genre of the utopian romance, which came into its own with the spread of modern popular fiction on utopian and dystopian themes.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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  • Utopia and romance
  • Edited by Gregory Claeys, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature
  • Online publication: 28 September 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521886659.007
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  • Utopia and romance
  • Edited by Gregory Claeys, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature
  • Online publication: 28 September 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521886659.007
Available formats
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Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Utopia and romance
  • Edited by Gregory Claeys, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature
  • Online publication: 28 September 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521886659.007
Available formats
×