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Utopian Canvas: Visionary Aspects of Early English-American Literature, 1497-1705

by Aragona, Jared Lane.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation applies the concept of utopia to literature surrounding the English exploration and colonization of America. The term “utopia” refers to both a literary form and to that concept in human consciousness whichcatalyzes change in physical reality. Authors express utopia in the visionary aspects of their written representations. Visionary representations produce expectations of what the future may hold, and in this way they helped bring European civilization to America. Studying these representations is valuable for historical clarity and because these representations reveal utopia’s function in affecting the course of the future. The study of early English-American literature requires terminology that the current reservoir of utopian terminology does not provide. I offer new terminology. This study defines four broad types of utopian vision specifically applicable to the English exploration and colonization of America. Active Complex visions prioritize maximum manipulation of the landscape to accommodate all the needs of a large and diverse population. Active Simple visions center on one staple venture, like sheepherding, to accommodate the needs of a small population. Divine Patent visions prioritize conformity to values inscribed in theistic religious literature. Natural Primitive visions prioritize the elimination of social infrastructure to achieve harmony with nature. These four types of utopian vision correspond to myths of the past that authors projected as hope for an ideal future. 11 The four types of utopian vision appear throughout the narratives collected by Richard Hakluyt. Voyages by explorers like Sir John Hawkins, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and Sir Walter Raleigh generated representations of America that expressed Active Complex, Active Simple, or Divine Patent visions. These representations also provided imagery that led to Natural Primitive visions of America. Captain John Smith’s narratives about Virginia and New England reveal visions of Active Complex utopias. Puritan authors like William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Winthrop, and Cotton Mather represented New England with Divine Patent visions. All of these utopian representations influenced later authors, including Thomas Jefferson, Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, and Timothy Dwight. They also continue to influence the way we imagine the United States of America today. 12
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School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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