Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Graham Petrie
This study of modern utopian fiction articulates a new theory of what constitutes utopia in the context of literature and science. Traditionally, utopia has been seen either as a vision of the ideal society crystallized into a static and oppressive order, or as a self-contradictory form of wishful thinking. However, utopia is neither uniform nor unchanging but heterogeneous and evolving. Diversity and dynamism are the two defining characteristics of utopia.
These two principles imply the convergence of seeming opposites into a unified whole, through a process which can accommodate both stability and growth. The thesis iIIustrates the meaning of dynamism and diversity in utopia by using two theories from modem physics as heuristic guides to reading ten utopian novels written between 1880 and 1980. Nonlinearity, a concept from chaos theory, is used to explore dynamic change; complementarity, a concept from field theory, is used to investigate the significance of diversity. Nonlinearity is an essential feature of modem utopianism because it allows for a complex understanding of history by showing that both personal choices and impersonal forces play a part in historical change. Complementarity describes the relationships between various sites in contemporary culture by reconciling seemingly incompatible ideas and placing them in a unified field where difference implies interaction.
Utopia's abiding fascination, as well as its transformative power, lies in the fact that it is truly nowhere and therefore potentially everywhere. This openness to potentiality provides the ground for hope, the force which sustains the desire for change an drives the movement toward utopia. In bringing together literary and scientific discourses and illustrating the desirability of unity in diversity, utopian fiction indicates the directions that society ought to take in order to advance.
Afnan, Elham, "Unity In Diversity: Multivalence in British and American Literary Utopias 1880-1980" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2274.