More's Utopia

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University of Toronto Press, 2000 M01 1 - 269 pages

"Utopia" has a strong claim to be the most misunderstood book ever written; its name has been hijacked by countless idealistic schemes having little in common with More's own assessment of social possibilities. For although it contributes to a line of argument that can be traced from Plato to Marx, "Utopia" is first and foremost a literary work that appeals to the imagination and seeks to question us rather than to proffer answers.

This study prepares the reader for these challenges, placing the work in the context of early sixteenth-century Europe and the intellectual preoccupations of More's own humanist circle, and clarifying those sources in classical and Christian political thought that provoked his writing.

"Utopia" is presented as a penetrating reflection on political idealism, one that has lost none of its relevance in an age that has witnessed the collapse of Marxists aspirations to social control. Dominic Baker-Smith also surveys the varied critical reception accorded to "Utopia" over the last four centuries, providing an intriguing look at "Utopia's" role in cultural history.

 

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Contents

Origins
1
The sceptre of the rulers
23
Platonic Satire
38
The Sanction of Custom
56
Narrative Credentials
75
The Dialogue of Counsel
104
The Best State of a Commonwealth?
151
Words and Deeds
201
In Search of Utopia
228
Bibliography
245
Index
261
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

DOMINIC BAKER-SMITH is Emeritus Professor of English Literature in the University of Amsterdam.