The Real and The Fantastic in Utopia by Thomas More

Taissia Sergeevna Paniotova


According to popular belief, Thomas More’s Utopia belongs to the genre of social criticism in the form of speculative fiction. The name of the island, based on the play of words ou-topos / eu- topos, names of various locations and actors (city Amaurot is ‘foggy’, the river Anyder – ‘anhydrous’, Hythlodaeus – ‘versed in the nonsense’, etc.), many characteristics of an ideal society, which have little connection with the reality of that time, show evidence of correctness from this point of view. We can also use More’s self-irony as an argument for ‘whimsicality’ of this writing because author has not bothered to ask Hythlodaeus about the whereabouts of the island, and use the mention of a famous character in the text who doubts how to treat Utopia – as something true and really existing or as a pure fiction. The opposite position is represented by A. Morgan, H. Herzog, E. Estrada and others. According to Morgan, ‘there are different classes of evidence in the scope that More’s book, taken as a whole, is not a fantasy, but the story of the travelling to Peru’. Other authors see the historicity and reality of Utopia in the descriptions of the Cuba, others perceive a likeness between Utopian customs and traditions of the indigenous peoples of America, and still others pay attention to the target-focussed criticism.

It is important to take into consideration the totality of the circumstances, connected with the writing of Utopia, in order to elucidate the ratio of the real and the fictional in this work. Among them are More’s staying in Antwerp in 1515, where the first book had been partially written and the second was finished; the presence of real historical figures: Peter Egidius (Peter Gillis) who, like More, was a friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam and ‘introduced’ More to Hythlodaeus, Cardinal George Morton at whose house More served as page when young, and More could have possibly reproduced in the book critical comments about the British behaviours that he heard at that time. It is necessary to take into account his possible sources of information about the New World: the letters of Columbus, diaries of travellers, Memoranda, Decades, etc. Additional area points we should mention works B. de Las Casas, G. Fernandez de Oviedo, Peter Martyr of Angleria, the book by A. Vespucci El Nuevo Mundo (‘The New World’) which was published in 1503. Only by placing the work in the socio-cultural context it may be possible to draw conclusions about the relationship of fiction and fact in Utopia.

Ключевые слова

Utopia; Sir Thomas More; fiction; fact; the real; the fantastic; America; England; the New World

Полный текст:



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