Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England
With the emergence of utopia as a cultural genre in the sixteenth century, a dual understanding of alternative societies, as either political or literary, took shape. In Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England, Christopher Kendrick argues that the chief cultural-discursive conditions of this development are to be found in the practice of carnivalesque satire and in the attempt to construct a valid commonwealth ideology. Meanwhile, the enabling social-political condition of the new utopian writing is the existence of a social class of smallholders whose unevenly developed character prevents it from attaining political power equivalent to its social weight.
In a detailed reading of Thomas More's Utopia, Kendrick argues that the uncanny dislocations, the incongruities and blank spots often remarked upon in Book II's description of Utopian society, amount to a way of discovering uneven development, and that the appeal of Utopian communism stems from its answering the desire of the smallholding class (in which are to be numbered European humanists) for unity and power. Subsequent chapters on Rabelais, Nashe, Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, and others show how the utopian form engages with its two chief discursive preconditions, carnival and commonwealth ideologies, while reflecting the history of uneven development and the smallholding class. Utopia, Carnival, and Commonwealth in Renaissance England makes a novel case for the social and cultural significance of Renaissance utopian writing, and of the modern utopia in general.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 380 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.4in x 9.3in
'This is a brilliant book. Its breadth of conception is remarkable, and that breadth is buoyed by deft and meticulous address to utopian imaginings from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Its groundbreaking rhetorical achievement is to have side-stepped the Cold-War binary of utopia and dystopia and to have opened the analysis of utopia to new lines of inquiry.'
Joseph Loewenstein, Department of English, Washington University in St Louis
'Christopher Kendrick's series of scrupulously well-informed readings constitutes one of the most important contributions to literary criticism, literary history, and critical theory that I have read in a number of years; it is surely the most important contribution to the theory of utopia since the landmark work of Louis Marin and Fredric Jameson. Kendrick is one of those unfortunately rare critics who combine the most sophisticated theoretical rigor with the most minute and thorough scholarship. This brilliant work is indispensable.'
Carl Freedman, Department of English, Louisiana State University
Author InformationChristopher Kendrick is an associate professor in the Department of English at Loyola University Chicago.
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