Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Impossible Probable: Modeling Utopia in Early Modern England
Authors: Werlin, Julianne
Advisors: Smith, Nigel
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Francis Bacon
James Harrington
Margaret Cavendish
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Impossible Probable: Modeling Utopia in Early Modern England examines three full-length utopias, Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, James Harrington's Oceana, and Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World in order to provide a new theory of Early Modern utopianism that takes both its imaginative and philosophical commitments into account. I demonstrate that through their use of fictional elements, Early Modern utopian writers were able to consider society as a complexly integrated whole, making models of social laws and the patterns of interrelation between institutions. In developing a philosophy that treats both the state and nature as capable of systematic interpretation, Bacon made a new conception of society possible. Through adopting a comparative technique hinging on the use of written evidence, he was able to imagine a civil sphere structured by analyzable patterns that could be studied across nations and eras. Yet his New Atlantis reveals that increased opportunities for interpretation bring increased dangers of misinterpretation to social life. James Harrington's Civil War utopia Oceana builds on Bacon's thought, developing an intricate form of social model in which fiction provides the possibility of representing the progress of an imaginary state through time. Finally, in the aftermath of the Civil War and Restoration, Margaret Cavendish's utopia The Blazing World reflects on the metamorphoses of a society during a period of drastic change, skeptically reevaluating the use of models in understanding social order.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Werlin_princeton_0181D_10349.pdf869.88 kBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.