Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England
Hundreds of writers in the seventeenth century imagined alternative ideal societies, they did this through imagined journeys to far-off territories - a world turned upside down or a world in the moon, and through serious disquisitions about the here and now, proposing how England itself could be made into a parliamentary 'Oceana' or a 'New Jerusalem'. Robert Appelbaum surveys literature from 1603 to the 1660s and shows how its ideal politics was engaged in the reality of political and social struggle. He also shows how paradoxical and self-defeating the exercise could be. In an era of change and political and religious conflict, writers asserted themselves as the authors of social and political ideals. But they also constructed systems in which the assertion of utopian mastery would have no place, and an ideal politics could no longer be imagined. This study will interest political and cultural historians as well as literary critics.