Saturday, 13 February 2010


Augustine's insistence on the city as a metaphor which embraces all peoples and ends in the certainty of perfection opens up a greater space for a mystical perception of universal truth (or the greater good offered in the heavenly city). This mystical truth can be accessed by anybody via revelation/dream, mystery and miracle (for example the miracles of the saints: exemplary individuals). The dream in turn allows the development of a very different rhetorical form from the dialectic of Plato - through what is sometimes described as bricolage (Jameson and Ingham).

Emilie gave a very good paper on the criticism of dream narratives, especially in the work of Chaucer. We saw how both he and Langland use the dream as a form for criticising specific corruption in their own contemporary London/World and proposing (perhaps?) a utopian 'new' alternative solution to contemporary problems.

Much of More's Utopia, especially in Book Two, explicitly rejects mystical solutions, or fantasies of a paradisical nature (Utopians, work, wear clothes and study, and do not yet have revelation or the sacraments). And yet the whole structure of the work adopts several aspects of the dream narrative form - the journey to the ends of the earth and beyond, the narrator thus able to 'look' down/in from outside on the island of Britain/Utopia, the idea of the book as a game and as a vehicle for promoting dreaming/reflection/learning, the ambiguous conclusion (that's if you think it has an ambiguous conclusion).

Of course we talked about much more than this ...including Morris ... but I will leave a space .., for my fun and your thoughts ...


Dave H.B said...

I think what i found interesting about the dreams of Morris and Langland was at the end, they indicate that they realise that their utopias were dreams, and that it is up to the reader to interpret their dreams.
With it being a dream, I think that the reader can almost accept more openly the fantastical notions of what goes on in thier utopias.
Also, being able to interpret a dream enables the reader to accept and disregard parts of the dream-utopias to fit with their own ideas of what a utopia is perhaps? If this is the case, then even though they are dreams, it could be argued they are more believable than, for example, More's Utopia, as they are more flexible in their interpretation rather than More's perhaps more rigid description?

Sarah Rees Jones said...

This does not exactly fit with dreaming - except that it explores the need to get beyond relativistic post-modernity to recreate utopias as a pragmatic path to ethical change in the real world.

Really - however - I am putting this in a comment as an aide-memoire because i cannot log in to make a post from a uni pc.

Alistair Fox, 'Introduction: Rethinking Utopia in the Wake of Postmodernism', Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies Vol. 2, No. 2 July 2005