In life, there seems to be an overall fear of the unknown, but also a fascination with it, where the emotion that dominates is the one supported by the most knowledge. This means that humans, as a race, are more comfortable with familiarity, and desire that all things which are unfamiliar to be defined by what is familiar, so they are able to understand. This fits well with the idea that perfection does not exist, but we are constantly striving for it. Most commonly, the attempts are manifested into utopian literature, fantasizing about what could be, defined by what has been.
This overarching idea that history constructs boundaries for social dreaming and utopian thought is the primary point of discussion of Constance Furey’s article “Utopian History”, that our dreams have limits. These limits constitute the past, as it is extremely difficult to imagine completely novel, new ideas; have you ever tried to invent something new, eventually realizing you are trying to create something that already exists or cannot think of anything at all? In a poem included in the article, this longing for remarkable, unheard-of change through imagination is portrayed well, as included below.
Generally, Furey discusses the implications of utopia as a means of historicism, characterized as the analysis of society or culture in the context of history; in addition, when combined with a hope for progress/advancement, utopian societies are able to assume a dynamic role, developing according to the time period and burdening issues. This is quite similar to how even non-utopian thoughts are heavily reliant on the world around them, and the issues plaguing the population. For example, at the time when the human race believed the end of the Earth to be the year 2000, Prince used his outlet of thought, music, to craft the song “1999”, commenting on living to the fullest while you still can.
If you look closely, any piece of utopian literature starts to mirror certain historical events and occurrences, as if these provide the backdrop to set the scene of an idea for manipulation and improvement of the current community. Essentially, these works are placing “existing pieces together into a non-existent form”, allowing for the utopian process to be one of learning and creativity (Furey 387). The recognition of this concept, then, is inherently significant for all research concerning utopian literature, since historical events/setting are the main influential aspects of these novels, putting pressure on characters, gender roles, government organization, propaganda, rule of law, etc. Any further analysis on the prominence of certain works, the growth in popularity of the genre as a whole, why certain aspects function as they do as well as their success in accomplishing intentions, or particular elements of specific “perfect societies” then depends on understanding the undeniable connection of historical events and utopian literature.
The author, due to her expertise and knowledge in the field, establishes credibility in this argument, explaining the dual mandate of utopian literature, its interdependence on realism and fantasy. Without realism, the claims are tied to no society and therefore have no impact; however, without fantasy, the claims are not really dreaming or striving towards anything. The organization of this article solidifies its perfective, as it progresses from broad ideas to a specific argument that utopia is history, just broadcasted into a different form to attempt critique and change from fresh angles. If you are to know anything about utopian thought and literature, it should be that, that social dreaming cannot exponentially grow, but is eventually bounded by what is accurate and probable according to the past, as shown by leveling out of the exponential function I have included below.
Furey, Constance. “Utopian History.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, Vol. 20 Issue 4, 2008, pp. 385-398. EBSCO Host, web.a.ebscohost.com.