Thomas More's Utopia has spurred debate, reflection, and critical thinking since its original publication in the 16th Century. More's fictional island of Utopia provides an exploration of issues that shook him and his contemporaries and continue to be problematic in the modern day; the details of More's utopian society, such as the permissibility of euthanasia and comments on chastity in the priesthood, combine with proposals of coexisting varied religions to put forth a work that incorporates the totality of More's religious, sociological, and philosophical talents.
An early evidence of the impact of Utopia in Europe appeared in Rabelais's first book of Pantagruel (1532) in which a section is entitled "The Expedition to Utopia." Actually the narrative in no way resembles Utopia, but there are incidental parallels. Details of the voyage from France to Utopia are in a general way reminiscent of More's account of the travels of Hythloday. And it is noteworthy that Rabelais called the inhabitants of Utopia the Amaurotes, a word derived from More's name for the capital city of Utopia.
Sir Thomas More, Utopia. This 1516 work is the book that gave us the word ‘utopia’ – from the Greek meaning ‘no-place’, though with a pun on eu-topos, ‘good place’, implying that such an ideal society is too good to be true. More’s island utopia has variously been interpreted as a sincere description of the perfect world and as a satirical work poking fun at the world’s excessive idealists. Mind you, given that in Utopia adulterers are taken into slavery, and repeat offenders are executed, it makes you wonder whether More’s Utopia isn’t more dystopian than anything…
Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy, the most successful and influential American author writing in the utopian vein, presents a vision of a glorious future society. Julian West, a young, aristocratic Bostonian, falls asleep under a hypnotic trance in 1887, but through a remarkable set of circumstances, is awakened in the year 2000. His host family in this new age introduces him to their amazing society, explaining their institutions and the rationale for their system.
Utopia is placed in the New World and More links Raphael's travels in with Amerigo Vespucci's real life voyages of discovery. He suggests that Raphael is one of the 24 men Vespucci, in his Four Voyages of 1507, says he left for six months at Cabo Frio, Brazil. Raphael then travels further and finds the island of Utopia, where he spends five years observing the customs of the natives.
Another complication comes from the Greek meanings of the names of people and places in the work. Apart from Utopia, meaning "Noplace," several other lands are mentioned: Achora meaning "Nolandia", Polyleritae meaning "Muchnonsense", Macarenses meaning "Happiland," and the river Anydrus meaning "Nowater". Raphael's last name, Hythlodaeus means "dispenser of nonsense" surely implying that the whole of the Utopian text is 'nonsense'. Additionally the Latin rendering of More's name, Morus, is similar to the word for a fool in Greek (μωρός). It is unclear whether More is simply being ironic, an in-joke for those who know Greek, seeing as the place he is talking about does not actually exist or whether there is actually a sense of distancing of Hythlodaeus' and the More's ("Morus") views in the text from his own.
Utopians do not fight their own wars if they can avoid it. Killing, although morally necessary, is morally degrading, so they hire mercenaries to defend Utopia. They do, however, train for war - men and women both - "so that they will not be incapable of fighting when circumstances require it". (105) They go to war reluctantly, and "do so only to defend their own territory, or to drive an invading enemy from the territory of their friends, or else, out of compassion and humanity, they use their forces to liberate a[n] oppressed people from tyranny and servitude." (105) Upon declaring war, they immediately offer enormous rewards for the assassination or capture of the enemy prince and others "responsible for plotting against the Utopians." (108)
(Singapore) With Indian, Malay, and Chinese influences, the island nation of Singapore has a unique culture that is easily revealed by exploring its various ethnic neighborhoods and exotic local cuisine. This spring, Semester at Sea will be in Singapore during the Chinese New Year and students will be able to observe and participate in the cultural celebrations.
The first lesson West learns is that all industry and all institutions are under the control of the national government, a system which, he is informed, has proved to be far more effective than the earlier one of free, private enterprise because of the elimination of wasteful competition. These enormous nationwide political and industrial institutions are structured on the plan of a military organization.
The "classical revival" was at the center of the intellectual and artistic agitation of the age. It involved a realization — or rediscovery — that a very great civilization had flourished in ancient Greece and Rome and a conviction that conscientious study and imitation of that civilization offered the key to new greatness. The Renaissance artists studied ancient works of architecture and sculpture, not only for their form and technique but also for their spirit. Renaissance scholars came to appreciate the literature of the ancients as a storehouse of wisdom and eloquence, and through their study they acquired attitudes and developed tastes of enormous value: to challenge dogma, to recognize the authority of nature, and to regard living a full life in "this world" as an opportunity and an obligation. They came to believe in their right to accept and enjoy physical beauty and the whole sensory world. Finally they acquired a sense of the worth of the individual and of the dignity of man. Growing gradually out of these concepts came the philosophy of "humanism" and the magnificent achievements in the fine arts.
More was beheaded in July 1535 and his property was attained due to his refusal to subscribe to the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. More believed Henry's marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon was valid. He believed that by marrying Anne the King of England was not in obedience to God's law. More believed the church should be governed from Rome rather than be ruled by the King of England. He hated Martin Luther condemning him to hell. More was inimical to the Protestant Reformation. His faith was in the old church which had governed Western religion for a millenium.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. In this work of 1726, which was an immediate bestseller, Lemuel Gulliver actually visits four different fantasy worlds, but the one that’s especially interesting here is the world of the Houyhnhnms, horses endowed with reason and speech, and a world in which humans are yobbish Yahoos flinging their muck around. Gulliver interprets the Houyhnhnms’ society as a utopian world, though whether Swift is inviting us to agree, or to distance ourselves from Gulliver, remains a contentious point.
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The politics of Utopia have been seen as influential to the ideas of Anabaptism and communism. While utopian socialism was used to describe the first concepts of socialism, later Marxist theorists tended to see the ideas as too simplistic and not grounded on realistic principles. The religious message in the work and its uncertain, possibly satiric, tone has also alienated some theorists from the work.