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Шадурский М. Литературная утопия от Мора до Хаксли
Maxim I. Shadurski
Literary Utopias from More to Huxley: The Issues of Genre Poetics and Semiosphere. Finding an Island
The book is a genre-genetic and semiotic study of literary Utopias, elaborating on the texts from English, Italian, French, American, Russian, Belarusian and other national literatures, against their philosophical, sociocultural, and historical background. With its experimental verve, Utopian imagination tends to construct nowhere worlds on remote patches of the earth, moon, sun, etc., but more often on an island. The island belongs to archetypal loci of world literature and, in a broad sense, culture. The first heroes on record from Egyptian, Greek, Celtic, and Slavonic mythologies would aspire for a distant island, usually situated in the happy otherworld and cut off from outside contact. The discontinuation of the physical boundary, imparting wholeness to the island, equals the profanation of inner values, adopted on it. The semiotic space of literary Utopias (semiosphere) evidences a two-faceted experience of assimilating the world's structure (cosmic harmony and order) and repudiating the world's meaning (societal mores and governments). The means of expressing this experience (poetics) help to unveil an integral complex of mankind's permanent and momentary expectations in the current perspective, to register the loss of illusions in retrospect, and to prognosticate the potential allure and danger of hyperrational world-organization. Despite the predominantly linear didacticism of a Utopian work, being the downside of polyphony, its text still carries high tension between the real and imaginary planes. In this way, a literary Utopia invites the reader to partake in a dialogue concerning the «best» profiles of reality, to perceive the sense, unfolding on an island.
Chapter I discusses the basic sense-forming factors of literary Utopias: the sociocritical moment, proceeding from the negation of a certain historical situation, and the principle of hope, presupposing the anticipation of ideal politico-social conditions. Utopian thinking also feeds on the mythopoetic imagery of space and saving heroes. In total, these factors assemble a set of typological attributes of the genre, comprising topos, ethos, and telos. The topos, or the commonplace, of literary Utopias is an ideal land, isolated from the ambient environment. Among the possible variants of fictional space in literary Utopias, English literature shows a marked propensity for the insular topos. In the novels by T. More, F. Bacon, J. Harrington, H. Neville, D. Defoe, etc. there can tellingly be distinguished these authors'
intention to frame the ground of the fictional experiment into a concentric shape, separated from the rest of the world by water. The ethos, or common morality, is congruous with the religion and education, practised in the planned world. The ethological component of the Utopian genre provides for the moral and intellectual stability of an imagined society and serves -along with the topos - some greater cause. The telos, or common social politics, indicates the purpose-engagement of themes and ideas, expanded on in the Utopian text. The teleological component of literary Utopias does not lead only to manifesting the peculiarities of an ideal state, but also to articulating the image of steady perfection. For this reason, it plays a dominant role among the typological attributes of the genre, commanding the senses of the topo- and ethosphere. The multiple aspects of the Utopian order are explored by a travelling narrator, whose world-view is, to a large degree, coextensive with that of the author. The typical characteristics of the protagonists, dialoguing with representatives of the fictitious reality, are conditioned by the facture of the newly discovered countries that bear witness to the incessant movement of time. Hypothetical travels inside the labyrinths of Utopian perfection set off the inner nature of the individual human microcosm.
Chapter II investigates the Utopian tradition from More to Bellamy by bringing to light the binary opposition of happiness and freedom. The process of semiotizing fictional space in literary Utopias was initiated by Thomas More. The text of Utopia (1516) carried certain hallmarks and attributes, obviously unknown either to Plato or to More's other literary precursors. At one and the same time, the provisional reality of the novel officiated alienation from the surrounding world and implementation of humanistic ideals, propagated by the «Oxford reformers» (J. Colet, Erasmus, T. More). In the novel, the idea of the «second creation» took its imaginary shape on an artificial island. The uncertainty of Utopia's geographical position was emphasized by topographical similarity between this island and 16th-century England. The English coastline had the same length as that of Utopia; the number of cities, or shire towns, in both the lands was identical. The incomplete concentricity of Utopia, as well as its square-shaped capital, threw into relief the mastery of the human factor over natural forces, which had been admitted to the city only as a garden. The island, depicted in Utopia, was incompatible with the real world in its hand-made unreality to such an extent, to which it surpassed that real world in the symmetrical order of its forms. Happiness and freedom found their realization on the island in the light of Stoicism and Epicureanism, the proper combination of which prescribed sacrificing earthly pleasures to intellectual joys. The country's absolute law-giver and governor Utopus arranged physical and metaphysical (moral, social, political, legal) estrangement of the island so
that it could support the wholeness of the «best commonwealth». T. More artfully fixed a significant balance of poetics and semiosphere by structuring the novel along thematic lines and thus envisaging the genre matrix of literary Utopias that were written later.
The search for Atlantis - a mythic island, alluded to in Plato's dialogues, charged the imagination of Francis Bacon. His novel New Atlantis (1627) corresponded to the spirit of 17th-century panscientism. The flatness and enormity of Bensalem, taken in by the narrator, distinguish the island from Utopia in the sense that the former was eight times as large as the latter. In the such-like expansion of fictional space in English literary Utopias one may as well recognize a burgeoning phantom of the future empire, envisioned in the Utopian key. The concrete images that filled the insular topos in New Atlantis were products of knowledge, extant to «the enlarging the bounds of Human Empire» within definite geographical confines - on the island. The principal difference between More's and Bacon's politico-social programmes concerned the institute of slavery, irretrievably abolished in Bensalem. Any penal constraint was put into practice through property deprivation, leaving individual freedom intact. The New Atlantic state assumed overall responsibility for moral aspects of elite education, preparing its adepts for the accumulation of intellectual wealth and full-scale scientific discoveries. According to Bacon, the movement toward knowledge-power proved incredibly laborious, while the final goal loomed as a fair achievement. Being a representative of Renaissance culture, F. Bacon pictured man as an inseparable element of the natural universe. In order to read the book of nature, man was expected not only to learn to manipulate its symbols, but also to master rational methods of dwelling in its embrace. Such a strategy of searching for Atlantis won immediate acclaim and provoked long-term re-evaluation in the works by F. Klopstock, M. Shelley, H. Hesse, H. Wells, V. Lastouski, and others.
In the age of Enlightenment, the philosophy of which postulated absolute dominion of reason as a most reliable instrument in estimating and reorganizing the world, the broadening intellectual horizons stimulated the demand for genre structures, not trite in the earlier periods of literary history. The genealogy of the European Enlightenment novel rose to the diary and memoirs, the form of which readily refracted new sides of reality. The intense exploration of the American continent in the 17th - early 18th centuries produced a notable impact on the toposphere of literary Utopias. In Daniel Defoe's novels The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), there may be discerned certain elements of Utopian world-modelling. The choice of the location at the mouth of the Guyana river Orinoco was not incidental because the author, similarly to many of his compatriots, felt attracted by Eldorado gold, the
probable existence of which was picturesquely related by the English explorer and poet Walter Raleigh in The Discovery of Guyana (1596), later reinterpreted by Defoe. Thus, in the insular topos the tendency toward expanding the living space of the Utopian experiment had finally formed. The Utopian space preserved its essentially closed character, confronting, as previously, the strange and open world outside. In the Utopian project of the Enlightenment, foremost importance was granted to the notions of equality, justice, and labour, ranking as unalienable rights in the imaginary world and bringing into the limelight harmony between nature and man-made universe. D. Defoe's novels solidly embodied their author's vision of the land, rationally transformed from the abode of Despair into the island of Hope. The narrative situation «man on an uninhabited island» generated a spate of imitations and reinterpretations, confirming its semantic and structural validity in world literature: J. Schnabel's The Isle of Felsenburg, H. Thoreau's Walden, S. Turbin's The Russian Robinson, Yanka Maur's Palessie Robinsons, W. Golding's Lord of the Flies, etc.
The semiosphere of literary Utopias tends to lever into high conceptual visibility contrasts between the two realities: empirical and fictitious, the imperfection of the latter being the building material for the former. In his novels Erewhon (1872) and Erewhon Revisited (1901), the 19th-century writer Samuel Butler undertook an attempt at merging the two worlds into their ambivalent realization, into a single meaningful entity. The genre heterogeneity of the texts, displaying the aspects of the philosophical pamphlet, autobiography, adventure novels, satire, and Utopia was predetermined by the further regrouping of canonical forms at the turn of the century and the eclecticism of Butler's artistic method. The writer, in keeping with the Utopian tradition, confined the exotic Erewhon on a faraway island inside the mountain range. The double physical boundary, as well as the island's location beyond the equator, conduced to concentrating inverse images and concepts in the imaginary country. Distanced from the customary circumstances, the Erewhonians identified disease with crime and sin with sickness, juxtaposed the Church and musical banks and equated machines with human organs. Given such distinctions, the fictional world of Butler's books witnessed the establishment of paradoxical unity between extremes. In framing his ideal, the author showed that the total negation of the empirical reality induced constructing a reality, fundamentally unattainable and, by implication, ethereal. Butler examined a new mode of Utopian world-modelling, based on the ambivalence of the empirical and fictitious worlds, which affected the development of the Utopian genre in the century to come.
The authority of the word in the mentality of both the Old and the New World emanates from recognizing it as the cause of the Universal
creation. The author's word is capable of relating the creation of the world, as well as creating a fictional world of its own. The protagonist of Butler's novels underwent a strenuous journey into the land of anagrams and antipodes, whose nature was defined as hypothetical. Hypothetics, in the writer's view, rested on a set of «utterly strange and impossible contingencies», aimed at educating the mind's flair of inconsistency and evasion. Largely, public opinion was generated by the local prophets and philosophers, whose word, condensed in the books, might call to action as an authority. In his turn, the protagonist of Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888) was transported in his sleep into the future, only slightly reminiscent of 19th-century Boston. The aspects of this fictional world were dubbed prodigious on the grounds that even «humanity's ancient dream of liberty, equality, fraternity at last was realized». Bellamy called the state ideology nationalism, since it presupposed a politico-social development of the country with a view to «a moral sentiment». The author attributed the role of ideological didactics to religion, which meant that the preacher's word had achieved the rank of societal moral authority. Butler's fictional world appeared suggestive of paradoxical potential, intrinsic to the word, its power to lead to results conflicting with intentions. Bellamy, taking up the puritan tradition, sacralized the word, refusing to recognize the hidden antipodes reposing in it. But there is much more in the word and its faculties. Not only does the word as authority attain the capacity of relating the creation or creating a fictional world, but also that of ruining this world and, along with it, the Universal creation.
Chapter III undertakes an analytical excursion into the poetic and semiotic transformations in literary Utopias of the 20th century. The signs of antiutopian ideology can be traced practically on all the stages of the literary process, though the autonomous genre status of antiutopias results from the sociohistorical cataclysms of the previous century. The sad experience of carrying brave Utopian projects into effect gave ample ground for antiutopian reflection and, in the long run, foreshadowed a quantitative decline in Utopian works of literature. Among subgenre varieties of literary antiutopias, mention should be made of quasi-utopias, dystopias, and cacatopias. Whereas quasi-utopias demonstrate possible alternatives of outliving and overcoming the excesses of absurd rationality in state government, dystopias and cacatopias modulate in eschatological tonality, balancing on the edge of politico-social despair and degradation.
Despite the prevalent 20th-century tendency to associate the human and world situation with nightmares, Aldous Huxley dreamt «pragmatically» in his final novel Island (1962). The book opened and concluded on the same note - the mynah birds' call to attention, perceived by the protagonist traveller William Farnaby. In search of oil deposits, he set sail for
the island of Pala in the Indian Ocean and learnt that the Palanese had been enjoying the niceties of seclusion until the world started to «close in on this island of freedom and happiness. Closing in steadily and inexorably, coming nearer and nearer». Owing to its estrangement, the island did not be come the place of paranoiac worship, acutely evident both in the East and in the West. Though the understanding of the islanders' «inner self» was enhanced by scientific knowledge, generated in the West and humanism cultivated in the East. Contemplation became a major driving force of consolation and being «here and now». In accord with Platonic idealism, the inhabitants of the island believed that the genuine vision of things was em bedded in the soul, which was immortal and carried immortal knowledge Plato emphasized the necessity of recalling this genuine vision and con firmed that the only method of recollection was contemplation. Palanese happiness resided in attaining a peculiar state of enlightenment and bliss on an individual and social level. Similarly to H. Hesse in his novel Th Glass Bead Game (1943), A. Huxley made use of the semantic potential of metempsychosis. In the two novels, the ideal societies were functioning between the vicious extremes - close contact with and absolute remoteness from the «wider» world, endangering their existence. Either of these extremes eventually brought the protagonists and the whole community to death and destruction, the ultimate effect of which was minimized by the cyclical composition of the novels, beginning and ending with the same words and marking the supposed transmigration of the living images.
The moral-philosophical manifesto, allegedly formulated by the Old Raja, Pala's former governor, complements the texture of the novel. The author of this booklet pursued a single «peacemaking» goal - to reconcile dualistic discrepancies, under the control of which the humanity was doomed to suffer. The Palanese practised «an existential religion of mysticisms, pointing to the «vasty deep» and uniting all disintegrated fragments of being. The fictional space of the island featured not only elimination but also re-birth. Nonentity and nothingness were not final predestinations of the island; it was the concluding call to attention that produced a semi-apocalyptic effect and instilled hope for revival. Working toward a common ground, A. Huxley constructed his perfect world at the junction of the East and the West and allowed for a possible danger of such a convergence. Whatever the outcome could be, it was the spiritual strength for revival that defined the shape of this insular experiment. A. Huxley's life and work embodied the gift for deciphering and delimiting cultural and historical symbols. In Island, the writer remained true to himself as a thinker, but went much further as a visionary in synthesizing the world's values within a single fictional model, the name and number symbolism of which sharpened the substance of its author's «pragmatic dream».
The Conclusion summarizes the principal observations, including the interaction of the typological features of literary Utopias, their operation in other fictional and non-literary environments, and maps the opposition of freedom and happiness against a more generalized sociocultural context.
The Appendix contains three essays, written by Aldous Huxley and translated into Russian by the author of this monograph: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 1956), Landscape Painting as a Vision-Inducing Art (Heaven and Hell, 1956), and Shakespeare and Religion (Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963: A Memorial Volume, 1964).
The articulation of a growing distrust in Utopian projects, typical of late, provoked the situation of the intra-genre «entropy», the circumstances of which dispersed a mainly concordant choir of optimistic voices, once calling to universal salvation. This could possibly be a prearranged pause, a slightly resonating silence, invigorating further movement, which would necessarily counterpoint the present reality. The semiotic mobility of literary Utopias, registered by means of genre poetics, testifies to man's inextinguishable aspiration for a harmonious universe, for finding an island.
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