After utopia: the rise of critical space in by Nicholas Spencer

By Nicholas Spencer

By means of constructing the concept that of severe area, After Utopia provides a brand new family tree of twentieth-century American fiction. Nicholas Spencer argues that the unconventional American fiction of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, and Josephine Herbst reimagines the spatial matters of overdue nineteenth-century utopian American texts. rather than totally imagined utopian societies, such fiction depicts localized utopian areas that supply crucial help for the types of background on which those authors concentration. within the midcentury novels of Mary McCarthy and Paul Goodman and the past due twentieth-century fiction of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Joan Didion, and Don DeLillo, narratives of social house turn into decreasingly utopian and more and more severe. The hugely diverse "critical area" of such texts attains a place just like that liked via representations of old transformation in early twentieth-century radical American fiction. After Utopia reveals that significant points of postmodern American novels derive from the brazenly political narratives of London, Sinclair, Dos Passos, and Herbst.Spencer makes a speciality of precise moments within the upward push of serious area in past times century and relates them to the writing of Georg Luk?cs, Ernst Bloch, Antonio Gramsci, Hannah Arendt, Henri Lefebvre, Gilles Deleuze and F?lix Guattari, and Paul Virilio. The systematic and genealogical stumble upon among severe concept and American fiction finds shut parallels among and unique analyses of those parts of twentieth-century cultural discourse.

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7 Of course, Bloch commends the transformative impulse of nineteenth-century utopianism, but he believes abstract utopia is guilty of bypassing history and rushing too quickly into depictions of ideal societies: “The abstract utopias had devoted nine tenths of their space to a portrayal of the State of the future and only one tenth to the critical, often merely negative consideration of the present. This kept the goal colourful and vivid of course, but the path towards it, in so far as it could lie in given circumstances, remained hidden” (2: 620).

London’s textual strategy also brings the function of spatiality closer to that of historicity and thus enhances its status. The distinctiveness of The Valley of the Moon is evident in its treatment of gender and class. Male characters in The Iron Heel and Martin Eden are identified with naturalist traits, and female characters are associated with utopian ones; the subordination of utopianism to naturalism exists in part through an equivalent subordination of the feminine to the masculine. In The Valley of the Moon, London adheres to his ideology of masculine power and the overall structure of his masculine-naturalist and feminineutopian ideas, but he also attributes naturalist and utopian motifs to both genders and accords greater significance to spatiality as the narrative progresses.

Specifically, the Marxist vision of future society is couched increasingly as a Nietzschean appeal to Spencerian processes. Everhard believes in the ultimate victory of the working class because of its “primitive strength” (154), which signals a reversion from the determinism of class struggle to that of biological power. London’s protagonist continues to make successful predictions about the outcomes of events and refers to the inevitability of the defeat of the Oligarchy, but his comments rely on Spencerian notions of scientific fact and evolution rather than the emergence of proletarian freedom from economic determinism.

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