In the late 1800s, Americans flocked to cities, immigration, slums, and unemployment burgeoned, and America's role in foreign affairs grew. This period also spawned a number of fictional glimpses into the future. After the publication of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward in 1888, there was an outpouring of utopian fantasy, many of which promoted socialism, while others presented refined versions of capitalism. Jean Pfaelzer's study traces the impact of the utopian novel and the narrative structures of these sentimental romances. She discusses progressive, pastoral, feminist, and apocalyptic utopias, as well as the genre's parodic counterpart, the dystopia.
"The Utopian Novel is without doubt an enlightening and perceptive work which deserves a place in every English Studies library."
This book of Jean Pfaelzer's is a fine specimen of a study which combines socio-political analysis and the critique of genre. . . . no doubt one of the best books on its subject to date.
Pfaelzer's book covers the golden decade for the production of major American utopias. . . . her analysis of specific works are always thought-provoking and acute, filled with rewarding observations.
Pfaelzer's approach, the recognition of the crucial importance of the literary quality of utopian fiction (and perhaps other didactic literature), seems to me indispensible to any full understanding of a considerable body of American writing. . . . an original and valuable contribution.
[Pfaelzer] reveals with sophistication the complex interaction between literary text and historical context. . . . Her study should become a standard reference for American utopianism as both literature and social document.
Jean Pfaelzer is professor of English and American Studies at the University of Delaware.learn more