In August 2012, Alderman joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee after serving as a professor of geography at East Carolina University since 2000. He recently completed service on the Council of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) as Regional Councillor and Chair of the Association's Publications Committee. Alderman is the former President of the Southeastern Division of the AAG and a former co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Southeastern Geographer.
St. Augustine's famous De Civitate Dei (City of God, 413–26) is frequently cited as a source for Utopia. It was, of course, well known to More. He had delivered a series of lectures on the work, as has been mentioned. The basic plan of Augustine's book is different from the Republic, although Augustine was a devoted admirer of Plato. By the same token, More's work differs in basic concept from Augustine's, though inevitably echoes of Augustine are to be found in More.
The utopian spirit as we have been discussing it, is revealed through the written words of men who were critical of the world they lived in and dreamers of a better world. What we cannot forget is that there have been many instances of groups of people who believed strongly enough in the possibility of improving their lot to attempt the founding of new communities planned according to their ideal principles. Invariably such an undertaking has required a move from the "old country" that they found intolerable to a new, open territory. For this reason, America of the nineteenth century furnished admirable opportunities, and there were scores of such group settlements throughout the United States and Canada, large and small, successful and abortive. Some of these communities have endured through a good many generations, particularly those with a pronounced strain of pietism: the Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkards.

The work begins with written correspondence between Thomas More and several people he had met on the continent: Peter Gilles, town clerk of Antwerp, and Hieronymus van Busleyden, counselor to Charles V. More chose these letters, which are communications between actual people, to further the plausibility of his fictional land. In the same spirit, these letters also include a specimen of the Utopian alphabet and its poetry. The letters also explain the lack of widespread travel to Utopia; during the first mention of the land, someone had coughed during announcement of the exact longitude and latitude. The first book tells of the traveller Raphael Hythlodaeus, to whom More is introduced in Antwerp, and it also explores the subject of how best to counsel a prince, a popular topic at the time.

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The name Raphael, though, may have been chosen by More to remind his readers of the archangel Raphael who is mentioned in the Book of Tobit (3:17; 5:4, 16; 6:11, 14, 16, 18; also in chs. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12). In that book the angel guides Tobias and later cures his father of his blindness. While Hythlodaeus may suggest his words are not to be trusted, Raphael meaning (in Hebrew) "God has healed" suggests that Raphael may be opening the eyes of the reader to what is true. The suggestion that More may have agreed with the views of Raphael is given weight by the way he dressed; with "his cloak... hanging carelessly about him"; a style which Roger Ascham reports that More himself was wont to adopt. Furthermore, more recent criticism has questioned the reliability of both Gile's annotations and the character of "More" in the text itself. Claims that the book only subverts Utopia and Hythlodaeus are possibly oversimplistic.