Between Dream and Nature: Essays on UtopiaandDystopia
Between dream and nature essays on utopia and dystopia - ant
1. Utopian Traveler and Antiutopian Outsider. Every dystopia contains its own implicit utopia (or eutopia, to be precise). This utopia "by contraries" may be in line with explicit utopian aspirations (e.g., Jack London's ), or it may be totally opposed to the entire utopian tradition. The antiutopia as defined in the three "classic" works of Zamyatin, Huxley, and Orwell, however, is curiously ambivalent. Its implicit utopia is both dependent on the utopian tradition essentially Romantic, individualistic, and anti-rational. Besides its obvious function as a "superweapon of anti-communism,"2 it is this romantic influence which has given the antiutopia its name and its reactionary reputation. Even to a "value-free" sociologist such as Schwonke, Romanticism and political conservatism seemed to be as natural a pairing as science and utopianism at the other end of the spectrum.3
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Since the outsider as hero is a creature of Romanticism, we should ask about his original role within the Gothic romance, where he found his most striking representation. The literary connections between Gothic and antiutopia have been analyzed in detail; still, the conservative interpretation of Romanticism has usually gone unquestioned.8 Leslie Fiedler's offers a different perspective. He sees the Gothic romance as a reaction to the sentimental bourgeois novel of the kind. Both have a virtuous hero(ine) of bourgeois descent persecuted by a villainous nobleman (Don Juan!). But now the pursuit takes place in a fantastic, pseudo-medieval dreamscape instead of a realistic setting, while Don Juan assumes the even more threatening traits of a criminal, an inquisitor, or a Doctor Faustus. The writer's aim is supposedly the same as the realistic novelist's: to denounce the shadows of the past, to expose superstition and oppression to the light of the day. But when there is a happy ending, it seems routine after such indulgence in inquisitorial cruelties and supernatural horror. The villain rather than the innocent victim is the center of interest. The victim (not necessarily a girl any more, perhaps not even bourgeois but the descendant of an accursed noble family) begins to resemble the torturer and becomes tainted by some obscure guilt. Having lost total innocence, the victim becomes one of the Damned. The villain, on the other hand, is allowed some human features and may often be the victim of sinister forces beyond his control. Hero and villain are different versions of the same figure: the in a hostile and incomprehensible world, the self-portrait of the Romantic artist.