Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 21
The Johns Ho p kins Universit y Press http://www.jstor.org/stable/465017 Your use of the JSTOR archive

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless

you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=jhup.

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with

The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Diacritics.

http://www.jstor.org

fro"

_

1'

0

o

Ir(lriiir

jfj

'

OF

ISLANDS

AND

TRENCHES:

NATURALIZATIONAND

THE

UTOPIAN

FREDRIC JAMESON

PRODUCTIONOF

DISCOURSE

Louis Marin. UTOPIQUES: JEUX D'ESPACES.Paris:

1973.

Editions de minuit,

O times,

In which the

meagre,

stale, forbidding ways

Of custom, law and statute took at once The Attractionof a Country in Romance Wordsworth

Not the least unexpected thing about the 1960'swas its reinventionof

the basic texts of

had been as desperately unreadableas those of obsolete forms

the question of Utopia."Meagre,

the genre

like the

sumer

of the classics of political science.

however,

addicted

stale and

forbidding",

masque or the mystery play, their content

society as the draft constitutions

bloodless

as irrelevant to con-

and natural or contractual theories

obsolete,

as

What had actually become

was a certain type of reader, whom

to the

we must imagine just

forecasts

of a Cabet

or a Bellamy' or detective

the

as we

ourselves

may be to Tolkien,

The Godfather,

stories.

Such

readers

become

extinct

because

Ragtime,

level

of fantasy

tolerance is suddenly modified by a change in social relations: so in the windless closure of late capitalism it had come to seem increasingly futile

and childish for people with a strong and particularly repressive reality- and-performance-principle to imagine tinkering with what exists, let alone its thoroughgoing restructuration.

Meanwhile,

even among those with a commitment

to social revolution,

the classical polemic of Marx and Engels against Utopian socialism, which had long since stigmatized both the word and the thing itself, seemed reconfirmed by books like Charles Reich's Greening of America, whose "critique" of captalism (Consciousness I) proved on closer inspection to harbor the much more comfortable and reassuring conviction that the essentials of a hallucinogenic future were already

latent and stirring, implicit in consumer society itself, and available at the

which however turned out merely to be an

price of one last effort

1 "From 1886, the year

of

Origins

no. 6

Form,"

of the HaymarketRiots,

hegemony [

until 1896, the year of the

.] over one hundred works of Utopian

restorationof conservative

fiction appeared" [Jean Pfaelzer, "American Utopian Fiction 1888-1896: The

Political

and Utopia,"

in The Minnesota Review,special issue on "Marxism

(Spring, 1976),p. 114).

effort of "consciousness!" Meanwhile, Reich's minor premise, shared with so many

of the post-1848Utopias, had a much more serious political function,

did, that whatever Utopia was and however it

construed as say, with any

today. Still, in comparison

commercialsuccess of CharlesReich'sbestseller testified to the renewalof a demand for Utopian discourse inthe 1960's.Itremainedforthe greatest Utopian thinkerof that

period to suggest that,

for the satisfactionof needs, "ifcritical theory, which remainsindebted to Marx, does

not wish to

within itself the extreme

difference. Marxismmust risk

conscious of and recognize

[HerbertMarcuse, "TheEndof Utopia",

pp. 68-69]. The history of the 60's testified to the correctness of Marcuse's strategic

reassessment of the

conjuncture, of the Utopian idea and

be

different politicalconjuncture of the 1840's.Thatthis was not only the opinion of the

a remarkableobservation of Georg LukAcshimself on the

New Left may be

com-

pare

themselves at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We can only achieve effective

action when we become

becomes clear to us that there is a sense in which the

Marx remains, both theoretically and practically, a task

Abendroth,Gesprache mit Georg Lukdcs (Hamburg: Rowohlt,1967),p.

is so that May68, farfrom

we must at least allow for the

works which, liketheir nineteenth

aginable What is at least certain-however

impulse itself-is

unambiguouspoliticalposition:

of an

that anti-utopianism constitutes a far more easily decodable and

we ultimately decide to evaluate the Utopian

asserting, was not to be

is to

as it

might

be conceived, it

havinganything

of the

whatsoever to do with Marxiansocialism-which

existing political movements for social change in the world

to

poor

Fourier, with his unanswered ad, the immense

given the present-day'sunparalleledtechnological possibilities

state of affairs, it mustaccommodate

.], the scandal of qualitative

a way that people

become

already Beacon Press,1970),

in existence"

stop

at

merelyimproving the existing

possibilities

it

for freedom

defining freedom in such

as something

that is nowhere

inFiveLectures(Boston:

explosive political

force, in that particular social and historical

which aretherefore not to

quite

the Utopianimpulse,

denounced out of hand in the name of Marxand

judged by

Engels' reading of the

"unequal rateof development" of contemporaryhistory: "We must essentially

our situation

today

with that in which

people

like Fourieror Sismondi found

aware that we find ourselves in that situation and when it

development for the future" [Holz,

from Fourierto

KOfler,

93]. Ifindeed it

being

our 1848, was littlemorethanour

JulyRevolution, then

Utopian

a distantand unim-

in

possibility of some revolutionarypotential

centurypredecessors, prepare

a pre-revolutionary one.

1848in a situationwhich does not even look like

from

religiousarguments about the sinful hybris

anthropocentric social order all the way

contemporarycounterrevolutionary tradition (Dostoyevsky,

transparentsynonym

turn out to be the enemies of socialism. Thetransitionfromthe 60'sto the 70'swas a

renewed theoretical reflection, and this is as true in the realmof

it is elsewhere. It is therefore no

impulse of the previousdecade, we should begin

new

the appearance of Skinner'sWalden Two, namely UrsulaLeGuin'sThe

[New York: Harper,1974]. It may be more paradoxical to suggest that the theoretical

fulfillment of this renewed study of

Bloch-in

confining, how-

ever, when the multiple intersectionsof narrative analysis withthe various specialized

semiotics, ethnomethodology, the anthropological

study of myth

dawning

understood as blocking out the as yet empty space of a whole philosophy of narrative

praxis in which the production of events and of the language that constitutes them promises to provide a more adequate conceptual frameworkthan any of the older

diacritics/June 1977

to the vivid "totalitarian" dystopias of the

Orwell, etc.), Utopia

is a

of Utopia sooner or later

spontaneous practice to

discourse as

Utopian

for socialism itself, and the enemies

passage

from

surprise that after the reawakening of the Utopian

to witness the maturationof awhole

them the most

importantUtopian text since

Dispossessed

the rediscovery and

generation

of

literaryUtopias,among

Utopian practice is to be located-alongside

the inexhaustible anticipatory"philosophy of the future" of Ernst

the area of narrative analysis. Such a term will seem less

academic disciplines-literary

and the historians' inquiry into the natureof

historiography, even the

sense of the "narrative" structureof the experiments of naturalscience-are

3

purely epistemological

any well as the most extended structural analysis of the

itself as well as the genre-yet

Louis Marin's

Utopiques:

f6te [in

May1968, prolongs

which]

its totalitychallenged in and by speech, communication circuits reopened between those who near or farwere drawnwithin it" [p. 15]-until that event, slowly trans-

muted into a text, at

systems, as well as the newer communicationalones.

worked out, that we must read

book, exactlycontemporaneous

of the hurricane

during

Itis at

rateas a fundamentalcontributionto

This

such a philosophy of narrative, as

Utopian impulse-the

gesture

Jeuxd'espaces:

with LeGuin's novel,

and elaborated in the

very eye a meditationon the

Marin's Nanterreseminar in

Utopian event itself-"revolutionary

suspended,

fora few weeks historicaltime was

length

institutionsandthe Lawitself in

narrative analysis.

Utopia,2

one of

which it

Itwill be

as the inversionof

study of myth" [see the

Books, 1961), pp.

society

seeks an

becomes accessible to

The text thus reconstituted is however called Thomas More's

range to More inthe

of

Marin's approach

known

program

Utopiques

for the "structural

Structural Anthropology

is a

those rareworks which, whatever its

names atthe same time thatitexhausts itswhole

most convenient to see

Levi-Strauss's widely so entitled in

chapter

to a realsocial contradic-

imaginary solution, a

tion between infrastructureand

Oedipus myth,

religious or

relatively unsystematic essay suggests

with

process

indeed,

mythic

heavenly

twins, the trickster, or the

reproduction of the antithetical terms of the contradictory situation within them-

selves, are able to serve as the narrativeoccasion for the latter's seeming resolution.

The originality of the first, lengthy and largelyhypotheticalexample of the Oedipus

legend

individual"character"(even when that character is a

proposed

signifying

traits just as thoroughly as itdissolves the surfaceunitsof the narrativeitself.As Utopia

is in one sense the

without characters, the relevance of this second option will be evident.

Levi-Strauss' approach

to myth even more sharply, for itbecomes clearthatthe latterunderstandsmediation

essentially as an operation bearing

contradictionor binaryopposition itself, termswe -S:

on the two "primary" terms of the fundamental

precursors,inaugurates a whole genre,

formal possibilities.

(New York: Basic

tribal

206-231]. For Levi-Strauss,myth

resolution

narrative process whereby

by way of figuralthinking,

superstructure

(in

the terms of his example of the

and the

between the tribal infrastructureof the

kinship system,

cosmological systems that seem irreconcilable with it). L6vi-Strauss's

two methodological

by

alternativesfor

dealing myth is essentially a

of them however informed

the conviction that

presentation,

myth, each

of mediation. In the more conventional second half of his

L6vi-Straussunderscores the role of mediatory characters in the

narrative-ambivalent, androgynous, doubly coded figures such as the

Cinderella/Ash-boycharacters, who,

by

was to have transcended these more

a kind of

impersonal chemistry

composes the apparent unity

virtue of the

of the

and to have

anthropomorphic categories

mediatoryone),

of narrativeevents themselves which de-

of the individualcharactersinto a bundle of

very prototype

of the narrativewithout a narrative subject and

specify

Marin's work suggests,

however, thatwe may now

may writeforconvenience as Sand

MEDIATION

S

-A

-s

But Greimas and others have taught us that this is far from exhausting the logical possibilities and permutational combinations inherent in the simplest binaryopposi- tion; not only do the logical contradictoriesof S and -S furnishtwo more indepen- dent terms, but the various axes thus generated (negative and positive deixis, impli- cation, contradictions) suggest that even the most rudimentary"elementary struc-

2 All page references Press, 1964].

herein are to the edition of Edward Surtz, S. i. [New Haven: Yale Univ.

ture of signification"

generating a number of quite distinct "mediatory" combinations alongside the one

operative

complex

in L6vi-Strauss's mythic resolutions, designated in Greimas's system as the

(as Greimas calls his "semiotic

rectangle"3) is capable of

term C:

C,(Complex term)

N (neutralterm)

This logical schema then permits

Marin assigns the Utopian

this sense,

opposition S and -S, and to produce a complex

term which would be

of the twin contradictoriesof the initial

combination which, virtually a double cancellation of the initialcontradiction itself,

may

so-called neuter or neutralterm N.

many examples of this process, not only in

us to identify

different

is for him the structuralinversion of

at a

glance

the

quite

position

position

myth

in

narrative; it

that where the

narrative operation of myth undertakes to mediate be-

Utopian narrativeis constituted by the union

the combination of -S and S, a

opposition,

tween the two primary terms of the

be

their resolution,

said to effect the latter's neutralization and to produce a new term, the

give a good

texts themselves. Before

Inwhat follows we will

order to give content to what may otherwise seem an extremely abstract proposition

about the nature of Utopia, but above all to demonstrate the ways in which this

hypothesis about the function of the Utopian operation may serve as a practical

method

further, however, it is worth

proach, and, in particular, its relationship to that debate on the natureand ideologi-

cal

literarytheory. The problem of representation may

context of one of the most fundamentalof all methodological options or alternatives

Humboldt

already gave striking expression to this

evoked the twin faces of

object created-something

the

ing any given

hastily

to be a powerful instrumentof analysis in the form given to it

tics as a distinction between cnonciation and cnonct,

tion and the completed utterance.4

for the reading and the analysis of the

which is

going any

underscoring the polemic implications of such an ap-

function of representation

try

one of the key problems in contemporary

be understood in its

simplest

form in the

language or linguistic phenomena.

which face us when we

to confront

option in the Romantic period when he

speech as energeia and as ergon, as creative power and as

(Spinoza) in

different modes availableto us for constru-

like a naturanaturansand a naturanaturata

linguistic realm itself, and two wholly

be assimilatedto Saussure's

When now we introduce the whole

individualverbal fact or entity. This alternation (which should not too

opposition

of

langue and parole) hasthen proved

by present-daylinguis-

between the act of enuncia-

question of representation into this scheme

or of the ergon will tend

of the cnonc

of things, and suggest that a linguistics

essentially to grasp linguistic objects

tive or process-like characterof language will tend to undermine representational

as representations, while a stress on the crea-

3 See

A. i.

Greimas and

Frangois Rastier, "The Interaction

of Semiotic

Constraints,"

Yale

French Studies 47, special

issue

on "Game, Play, and Literature" (1968), pp. 86-705; and also

de la

signification[Brussels: Editions Complexe,

Frederic Nef, ed., Structures 6lmentaires

1976].

4 The Austin-Searle concept

4nonc6,an already completed

concept sometimes gives

of a "speech

act" would appear to belong

in the category of the

and successful transmission of meaning; the confusion this

rise to is probably attributableto the ambiguity of the term "act",

which has led people to try to assimilate it to the opposite category, of praxis and production, of

the

Speech

emergence

of meaning.

See

Stanley

Fish, "How to Do

Things with Austin and Searle:

Vol. 97, No. 5 (October,

Act Theory and Literary Criticism", Modern

Language Notes

1976),pp. 98-025.

diacritics/june

1977

5

categories, we will have begun

lem. It remainedfor Julia Kristevato assimilatethis

this distinction

to

the classical Marxianone between

the exchange value of commodities in a market system, and their use value in pre- or

the study of verbal and

to

glimpse

the

ideological coordinates of the prob-

linguistic

distinction-better still,

two whole

approaches

first of these phenomena imposes

value

and money in mature capitalism,

between two possible types of linguistics,

literaryphenomena-to

of

of the

a

mode of analysis in which categories of exchange are dominant, whether this be

Marx'sown

or a

of an exchange

always a

value, whether of use or of exchange. Inother words: if in communicationvalues are

always

tive] work itself can represent nothing above and beyond

crystallized" [JuliaKristeva,

science", in Thdoried'ensemble (Paris:Seuil, 1968), p. 88].

"La Semiologie: Science critique et/ou critique de la

tion and

theory and to the perspective

post-capitalist social forms. The primacy

study of the operation

surplus

relatedto communication

linguistics ideologically of

completed "speech acts": "fromthe viewpoint of social distribu-

that of communication as well, work is

of

crystallizedwork, [from this perspec-

that value in which it is

consumption, and indeed,

and

inevitablygrasped as fragments

points out,

Marxian analysis of

capitalism the logical economic

study

apprehended independent of value as such, a

and circulationof commodities in the circuitof communication.

[scrle]

encore rien dire], in other

only be a matterof the

pence]" [Ibid.]. As is well known, Kristeva goes on to propose a "semiology" based

But as Kristeva

of

there is implicit even in the

possibility of a very

and historical

different

approach

to

phenomena, and one which suggests a quite

language

as well: "an other

space

different alternativefor the

is conceivable in which work may be

space that precedes the manufacture

There, in that place 'intentional' [ne veut

in which work as yet represents no value and is not yet

words, as yet has no meaning, in that other space it can

relationship

between the

body and systems of energy [d&-

"semiology"

of com-

programby the work of

society, we can only

in terms of finished commodities (reification[see

inflection given this

on production to replace, or at least to coexist with, the older

munication and

place the Tel Quel and the Screen breakthe habitof

Georg

Class Consciousness

fitfully

representation.

This is not the

to explore the

groups. Suffice it to say that in this

thinking

LukAcs, "Reificationand the Consciousness of the

Proletariat", in History and

for a

(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971), pp. 83-222; and,

consumer society, Guy Debord, La

with the habit, so closely related

theory of reification in

(Geneva: Buchet/Chastel, 1967)])along

reading according to categories

fore, for some genuinely post-representational discourse (or "textual productivity",

as Kristeva calls it), we must take

phenomena which reveal the tenacity of the hold of the older

categories on our own thinking

Utopiques

representational

and reading: and this is the context in which Marin's

Socidth du spectacle

to it, of

of representation. Whateverthe possibilities, there-

a keen interest in those

literary or textual

lesson for us. To understand Utopian discourse

it

as a process,

as

has a

particularlystriking

in terms of neutralizationis indeed

energeia, enunciation, productivity, and implicitly or explicitly to repudiate that

more traditionaland conventional view of

precisely to propose to grasp

Utopia as sheer representation, as the

society or social ideal. Nowhere, however, does

"realized" vision of this or that ideal

this seem more instructively difficultto manage than in the reading of a text whose

tours and interminable guide-book explanations, whose static descriptions of institu- tions and geographical and architecturallayouts, seem intenton establishingbeyond any possibility of doubt or fluctuationthe representational coherence and solidity of its object. Marin's book will then have as one of its fundamentaltasksto convince us that it is possible to understand the Utopian text as a determinate type of praxis,

ratherthan as a specific

the construction and perfection of someone's "idea" of a "perfect society" than it does with a concrete set of mental operations to be performed on a determinate type of rawmaterial given in advance which is contemporarysociety itself, or rather,what amounts to the same thing, to those collective representations of contemporary society which inform our ideologies just as they order our experience of daily life.

.ode of representation, a praxis which has less to do with

Yet the disparity still seems very

great

between this description of a literary text

incorrigible ten-

of

category things and stable landscapes,

be useful to try to reduce it

solution to thatold of as the

of the

as a set of mental operations, let alone as neutralization, and our

dency to incorporate the Utopian text back into that more conventional

novels or narrativesin which characterstravel and do

kingdoms, powers and principalities "exist". It may thus

by indirection, and to this view of narrativeas

an "extrinsic" criticism,

referent, that is, of something "real"somewhere outside

supposedly makes--or

point out some of the unexpected advantages presented by

(false) dilemmaof

process, in particular a

sometimes

erroneously thought

problem the text to which the latter

(Norman Holland)or indeed

better still, fails to make-allusion.

thinking

of the narrativetext as a

process whereby something is done to the "real", whereby operations are per-

formed on it and it is in one way or another

brought to heightened

to think of the "real," not as

If, however, we try to accustom ourselves to

"managed"

"neutralized," or under other circumstances articulatedand

clearly

we will have to

begin

consciousness, then

something outside the

representation, but rather something borne within and vehiculated by the text itself,

interiorized in its very fabric in order to

which the textual

place of the Real--of

can be dissolved or "neutralized"

obsessive references to

intersecting

text

example, if

it is

ensuing dip-

lomatic negotiation, "has reference to the Treaty of Utrecht, which, effected by the

Tories, ended the war with France" [JonathanSwift, Gulliver's Travels, edited by

RobertA. Greenberg (New York: Norton, 1970),p. 36, note 1], then Swift'stext ought

of scandalfor those of us still committed to the ideology

of an "intrinsic" criticism(the practitioners of an older kindof literaryhistory would

have had no trouble with such a

those advancing "beyond" politicalallegory head-on,

general and as such).

the New Criticismhave yet to confront the problem of

work, of which the latter stands as an image or makes a

provide

the

stuff and the raw materialon

Utopian narrative, the

must work. In the case of the

operation

that which must first be constituted within the work before it

by

the

work as process-may

be identified by the

of the conventions of such texts,

actuality which seem part

the narrative which,

the

perpetual play of topical allusion throughout

the more

properlydiegetic interest, is constantly on the point of fragmenting the

into an anecdotal and discontinous series of verticalindicators. Thus, for

true that Gulliver'scapture

rightly to become an

object

of the

Lilliputian fleet, along

with the

passage-their own difficulties lay elsewhere-while

allegory

in

desperately awayby

the

Crystal

let alone the problem of

Still, there is reason to believe that such footnotes are not the mere cobwebs of

topical and long-dead contemporary

living reader, but ratherthat some such play of topical allusion is structurally indis-

pensable in the constitution of the Utopian text as such and provides one of the

generic neighbors

in the realm of

distinctivetraits necessary ifwe are to markthe Utopia off from its

allusion to be brushed

fantasy or idyll. A regressive pastoral

shares

Utopian

like W.H. Hudson's A

Age (1887), while it certainly

genre, is distinguished from the latter primarilyby the absence from it of any of

those one-to-one allusions-generally

reading of Utopias a process of

allegorical decipherment. So in Butler's Erewhon,

machines are evil and

ress is an ideological value presupposed in advance and uncontested; but Hudson's

return

appeal to a generalized

operations. What is this but to say that, unlike Utopia, this kind of idyll or fantasy is

precisely a representation

fullness of an image of a

of which includes both anxiety and longing within itself? The Utopian text does not generally strive for such hallucinatoryintensity, and on the contraryusually meritsour complaints about its transparent literalismand its unimaginative and allegoricalaridity. Its topical allusions, however, if they constitute an essential feature of the genre's structure, are nonetheless not without problems of their own, which will then take us far in understanding the nature of Utopian

diacritics/June 1977

differentformof life, an image the fascinated contemplation

features with the classical works in the

make the

in the form of inversions-which

illegal precisely because in Victorian England industrial prog-

savagery or barbarism-is an

precise set of decoding

to some earlier pre-capitalist form-whether

and global nostalgia, ratherthan to a

and musters its narrativeresources in order to impose the

7

within itself

to stand as that Real which it will

menaced by the wealth of allusions to currentevents which threatens to dissolve it

altogether. All genuine Utopias therefore betray

designed to "neutralize"the topical allusion at the same time that it produces it and

seems at first

and fictionalization

between the so-called FreeWorld

(in her book, the wealthy planet Urras)

satellite Anarres). This identification is then further confirmed for the

olutionary

reader

by visit to Urras:thus he has to learnthe word for

not exist on his own world [176]; his

virtual nightmare[116-117]; at length the very revulsionwith commodities becomes a

figure for Urrasitself: "it is a box [

Shevek's introduction to consumers' goods and consumerism during his

reinforces it. So, for instance,

glance a fairlystraightforward and unproblematicaltransposition

of the contemporary division of our globe today

and the socialist bloc (its barrenand rev-

production.

Forif the text

requires this network or texture of topicality

undertake to neutralize, it is

at the same time

a complicated apparatus which is

Ursula LeGuin's novel The Dispossessed

"packaging", since the practice

does

trip to the downtown luxuryshopping area is a

]

a

less transpar-

package, with all the beautiful wrapping of

blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what

is inside of it?A blackcellarfull of dust, and a dead man"[305-306]. No

difficulties in publishing

his scientific

which he is attackedfor lackof

a

ently

discoveries, the conformist atmosphere of the scientific institute in

patriotism, the attempt to prevent himfrom receiving

are the problems Shevek faces in his homeland-his

prize from "propertarian" Urras-read as stereotypical allusions to recently pub-

restrictionson intellectualsin the Soviet Union. Indeed, the very convention-

licized

ality

the reificationof consumer

from being a flaw in LeGuin's novelistic vision-on

specificity of our reading of her Utopian text. To put it a different way, it is only in

terms of a more

capitalism and the political

the contrary define the very

of such allusions and

the transparency of the novel's basic opposition between

constraintsof socialism-far

reproached for the poverty of its political

contrary we will see that it is

LeGuin's own liberalism,

conventionally novelistic and more properly representational stan-

dard of literaturethat her book can be

concepts and the naivet6of its view of present-day world history; if on the

we adopt Marin's view of the Utopian as process and production,

precisely such stereotypicality, and the conventionality of

which constitute the rawmaterial upon which her Utopianpraxis must do itswork of

transformation.

This said, we must observe that such

planets

topical

reference to the contemporary

situation is no sooner

allusions incompatible

the twin

difficult to sustain in view of the fact that this division is

again, but with much greater detail, within the frameworkof the

alone, where, alongside

be a kindof Soviet

in addition to both, an impoverished

superpowers ThirdWorld.

posited than it is undermined by a new system of topical

with it. We discover indeed that our initial identificationof

themselves with the "FreeWorld"and the "socialistbloc" becomes

itself reproduced

planet

all over

of Urras

the capitalist state visited by Shevek, there turnsout also to

Union, represented by

the centralizedstate socialismof Thu,and,

great

identifying as our own

of

system revelation that within

sub-continent (Benbili) in which the two

even

this

intervene and which we therefore conclude by

this particular process set in

place-is

stop discredited by the

here:

soon

Nor does

correspondences-once

LeGuin'simaginarycosmography, in the intergalacticleague (the Ekumen)to which the binaryplanets of Urrasand Anarresthemselves belong, the realEarthstillexists, a burnt-outshell, its ecology blasted by war and pollution and survivingonly at the

price of a regimentation qualitatively different from that of revolutionaryAnarres, whose beneficient scarcity and "clean" austerity it therefore reflects back in the negative image of a baleful and toxic waste land. At this point, clearly, it can no longer be a question of deciphering the appropriate references so much as of specifying the nature of the apparentlycontradictoryprocess at work in them.

its systems

of reference, these identifications with a topical subtext which are also and simul-

taneously differentiationsfrom it, betray the presence of an essential mechanism at

Forthis approach and withdrawalof LeGuin'simportant novel from

work in all

Utopias. of a ghostly double or

island of

which the scholarly footnotes,

In the original one, for instance, topical

phantom

allusion takes the form

England that rises up behind the no-place of the

a tangible pursuing the chitinous whisper of their commen-

but intermittent historical nation-state to

Utopia in the text,

taries, make insistent reference,

mine the last chances of the narrativesurface

But such "explanations"-"the

England had fifty-threecounties, plus the City of London [More, p.

Andrus

more than lx.

Utopia

of beast within the

deplored as the excesses and

literary-historicalscholarship;

expression

reconstructing it as a sub-text even as they under-

to achieve any "full" representation.

because Tudor 61, note 7]; the

island contains fifty-fourcity-states"

runs sixty

miles to the sea because

"the Thames 'doth twise ebbe and flowe

[p. 64, note 2]; the butchers of

miles' within twenty-four hours"

work outside the cities because of " 'an Acte that noe Butcherslea any maner

Walles of London'" [p. 78, note 4], etc., etc.-are not to be

zeal of some now discredited ideal of

misguided but rather understood as the fitful and

symptomatic

of a referentialsub-text which is an essential and determinate absence or

within the structure of the

Utopian text proper.

"real" Englandcontemporary

to him is rearticulatedin

rationallyjustified or

"motivated"(in the meaning the RussianFormalists

a wholly new element, namely history itself and

and evolution. Now the Utopian text is

literally founded

latter's historical emplacement;

more perfect

and the narratorof

Looking noisy and dirty the

&

visionary

Boston on the site of the old

of News from Nowhere is astonished to discover that

supplanted

"England'sgreen the endless precincts of the grimy Londonof old.

obligation to provide

reality to Utopia;

overemphasis

a historicalaccount and it is here that,

on sheer reason and political and social

and Morrisare under an

to grasp the antagonisms of

the founders of Marxismlie in wait for them.5

Marin, however, the

historicity of the great nineteenth-centuryUtopias-

progress in relation to the

of

ahistorical vision of a Thomas

mystification, and as the repression of some

Utopia as a non-place

conceptualizing human society,

thought; we will returnto this assertion shortly.

"other"

In later Utopias, it would seem that this phantom spatial superposition of More's

time, and in

Utopia with the

some sense

gave this word) by the emergence of

the new bourgeois sense of historical change

not figuratively established across its referential sub-text, but rather

and edified on the

Backwardfinds a new and

nineteenth century industrial metropolis of the same name, while

sleeper

pleasant fields" have

Only now Bellamy

of the transitionfrom old to new, or ratherfrom

with their denunciation of the Utopian socialists'

persuasion and their failure

dynamics,

For

which might otherwise, whatever the political oversights of their authors, have

seemed to mark some

More-may equally be taken as a sign

more

tional surface and to

plaster process of neutralizationwith the fuller

positively imaginablesociety.

tion of historical materialismas a rationalmode of

Utopias as such are no longer possible, or in other words, that Utopian practice

ceases to be an authentic mode of

This is the sense in which, for Marin, afterthe elabora-

image of some historically realizable and

over the basic structureof

and a

genuine Utopian praxis, insofaras it strainsto fill the chinks of the representa-

It is now time to introduce an initialdemonstration of the central proposition of

Utopian neutralization;or, in terms of More's

of the

text to what we have

Utopiques, namely that the basic relationship

been calling its referentialsub-text is one of

Utopia, that the islandof that name functions as a point-by-pointnegation or cancel- ling of the historical England itself. When we remember, however, that this latter entity is to be understood as a sub-text, itself constructed (and then neutralized)by the Utopian text itself, we will understand that such a proposition is not to be

understood in some banal sociological sense. Rather,it is here that Greimas'Semiot-

s It may be conjectured that, aftersome interrogation,they will allow Morristo pass by. See

foran importantreconsiderationof the relationshipof Morris(and bevond him of the Romantic

tradition)to radicaland revolutionarythought, EdwardThompson, "Romanticism,Utopianism,

and Moralism:the Case of WilliamMorris,"New LeftReview99

83-111

Pantheon, 1977]).

(reprinted as the "Postscript" to WilliamMorris,Romanticto Revolutionary[New York:

(September-October1976),pp.

ic rectangle has a strategic function to play, by allowing us to

rather "Portugal", its historical ally and surrogate in More'stext and Hythloday's own

country of origin) precisely as a complex term, as the combination or imaginary

synthesis of the basic contradictions of More's time: to this complex term would

then reply the echo of the neutralor Utopian one opposite it.

construe "England" (or

Forthe moment, however, we can only

show this in an external, and as it were

"England/Portugal"may be distinct from each other:</