Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Three Early Modern Utopias: Utopia, New Atlantis and The Isle of Pines

I bought these three books in one edition: "Three Early Modern Utopias: Utopia, New Atlantis and The Isle of Pines", and two of them are really very short, so I will also review them in one post.
I love dystopian novels (see  here) but had never really read a utopian one.


More, Thomas "Utopia" - 1516

Utopia: Less a novel than a "little red book" that states rules for a dream country. Of course, the rules very much apply to the age in which it was written but even then I cannot believe they would have worked. It's like communism, the world could be so wonderful if it worked but there are people who have to live like that and people are not like that. So, I was curious as to what the next book had to tell me, it was written a couple of years later.

Bacon, Francis "New Atlantis" (Latin: Nova Atlantis) - 1624 

The New Atlantis: Again, a dream of the perfect world that will never really exist. However, at least in this book we get introduced into a society that works like that, an island West of America hat hadn't been discovered but was populated by a model society.

Neville, Henry "The Isle of Pines" - 1668

Isle of Pines: The author pretends to have found a new island somewhere in the Southern hemisphere (before Australia was discovered) and writes letters about it to Europe. Again, a lot of "phantastic" fiction, something that is never going to happen.
Of course, that's what a Utopian novel describes.

I liked the idea of putting these three books in one edition in order to see the development of the beliefs in Utopia. However, I think by now we have realized that we will never get there. Maybe on a different planet with a different species ... but they'd have to be selfish to begin with in order to survive and then that wouldn't work either. Still, a good introduction into philosophy.

I do prefer dystopian novels, even if they will not happen exactly as the author describes, it highlights the fears of a generation. And if we look at 1984, don't we all have a "telescreen" in our houses? We call it computer. And Big Brother is the internet, even though we think that we can give it as much or as little information about us as we want. Dream on!

From the back cover:

"First published in 1516, Saint Thomas More's Utopia is one of the most important works of European humanism. Through the voice of the mysterious traveler Raphael Hythloday, More describes a pagan, communist city-state governed by reason. Addressing such issues as religious pluralism, women's rights, state-sponsored education, colonialism, and justified warfare, Utopia seems remarkably contemporary nearly five centuries after it was written, and it remains a foundational text in philosophy and political theory. Preeminent More scholar Clarence H. Miller does justice to the full range of More's rhetoric in this new translation. Professor Miller includes a helpful introduction that outlines some of the important problems and issues that Utopia raises, and also provides informative commentary to assist the reader throughout this challenging and rewarding exploration of the meaning of political community.

The New Atlantis by Sir Francis Bacon is a utopian novel written in the early 17th century. This classic book depicts the mythical land, Bensalem, believed to be located off the western coast of the continent of America. Bacon recounts the description of a wise man on the details of their system of experimentation and method of recognition of inventions and their inventors. This is key work on the idea of an Atlantis and is a popular work by one of the most important English writers. This title should be read by those interested in beliefs of Atlantis, and those who are fans of the writings of Francis Bacon.

The Isle of Pines: The Isle of Pines is a book by Henry Neville published in 1668. An example of Arcadian fiction, the book presents its story through an Epistolary frame: a "Letter to a friend in London, declaring the truth of his Voyage to the East Indies" written by a fictional Dutchman "Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten," concerning the discovery of an island in the southern hemisphere, populated with the descendants of a small group of castaways."

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