LITR 5439 Literary & Historical Utopias

Anthem, first meeting

 

origin stories

 Utopia 2.1;  

Looking Backward 4.4, 5.4, 19.18;

Herland 5.60-5.70,

Anthem 1.9, 2.49

 

 

 

 

Herland: Further discussion? How explain, defend as feminist or women's utopia?

5.78 absence of masculine and feminine

eugenics?

mother love

object-relationality / mother-daughter unity vs. father-son antagonism

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:  1. compare / contrast Anthem to utopian texts. How are utopias & dystopias co-dependent for identity?

2. What automatic appeals or "readability" do dystopian texts enjoy over utopian texts, at least for a modern or American audience? (e.g. romance narrative)

3. While Rand's status in the literary canon is controversial, Anthem offers some strong if limited literary appeals. How may we characterize Rand's style? What appeals to fundamentalist freemarket capitalism +- evangelicalism?

4. What do utopian texts scant or blur that Rand emphasizes and develops? What consciousness does she demonstrate of utopian texts and structures? (Obviously she despises them, but her text shows occasional knowledge of utopian forms.) 1.28

5. Resemblance to other early-mid 20c dystopias or satirical utopias like Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies? What resemblances or differences relative to teen dystopias, zombie apocalypse, etc.?

 

1. compare / contrast Anthem to utopian texts. How are utopias & dystopias co-dependent for identity?

 

 

 

 

2. What automatic appeals or "readability" do dystopian texts enjoy over utopian texts, at least for a modern or American audience? (e.g. romance narrative)

 

 

 

 

3. While Rand's status in the literary canon is controversial, Anthem offers some strong if limited literary appeals. How may we characterize Rand's style? What appeals to fundamentalist freemarket capitalism +- evangelicalism?

 

 

 

 

4. What do utopian texts scant or blur that Rand emphasizes and develops? What consciousness does she demonstrate of utopian texts and structures? (Obviously she despises them, but her text shows occasional knowledge of utopian forms.) 1.28

 

 

 

 

 

5. Resemblance to other early-mid 20c dystopias or satirical utopias like Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies? What resemblances or differences relative to teen dystopias, zombie apocalypse, etc.?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom & Equality

Declaration of Independence

 

Style: portentous, heroic, scriptural; fairy tale

starkness, not realistic detail

 

 

1.16 evil to be superior

[1.19] "Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do

1.21 from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it

1.28 five members of the Council, three of the male gender and two of the female.

1.29 we would work for our brothers, gladly and willingly, and we would erase our sin against them, which they did not know, but we knew.

1.32 the Social Meeting

1.32 a play is shown upon the stage, with two great choruses

1.33 the State takes care of them

1.35 [gay-dar]

1.37 [heroic, mythic setting]

1.38 an old iron grill over a black hole.

[1.60] "Then," we said, "keep silent. This place is ours. This place belongs to us,

1.62 Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers.

1.65 We melt strange metals, and we mix acids, and we cut open the bodies of the animals

1.66 handwriting

1.67 We have come to see how great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the end of our quest. We wish nothing, save to be alone and to learn

 

 

 

[2.1] Liberty 5-3000 . . .  Liberty five-three thousand . . .  Liberty 5-3000 . . . . 

[2.2] We wish to write this name.

2.9 felt as if a hand had touched our body, slipping softly from our lips to our feet.

2.11 our second Transgression of Preference, for we do not think of all our brothers, as we must, but only of one, and their name is Liberty 5-3000

2.12 given them a name in our thoughts. We call them the Golden One.

2.13 Time of Mating. . . .  City Palace of Mating. And each of the men have one of the women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics. Children are born each winter, but women never see their children and children never know their parents.

2.18 triumph in their eyes, and it was not triumph over us, but over things we could not guess.

[2.22] "You are not one of our brothers, Equality 7-2521, for we do not wish you to be."

[2.23] We cannot say what they meant, for there are no words for their meaning, but we know it without words and we knew it then.

[2.30] "Your eyes," they said, "are not like the eyes of any among men."

[2.34] "Seventeen," they whispered.

[2.35] And we sighed, as if a burden had been taken from us, for we had been thinking without reason of the Palace of Mating.

2.36 a sudden hatred for all our brother men

2.38 we wanted to sing, without reason

2.41 forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy.

2.42 that word is fear.

2.45 the Council of the Home looks with suspicion upon us

2.48 many Uncharted Forests over the land, among the Cities. And it is whispered that they have grown over the ruins of many cities of the Unmentionable Times.

[2.49] And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest far in the night, we think of the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. And we wonder how it came to pass that these secrets were lost to the world. We have heard the legends of the great fighting, in which many men fought on one side and only a few on the other. These few were the Evil Ones and they were conquered. Then great fires raged over the land. And in these fires the Evil Ones were burned. And the fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, was the Script Fire where all the scripts of the Evil Ones were burned, and with them all the words of the Evil Ones. Great mountains of flame stood in the squares of the Cities for three months. Then came the Great Rebirth.

2.53 some word, one single word which is not in the language of men, but which has been.

 

 

3.4 we had found the greatest power on earth. For it defies all the laws known to men. It makes the needle move and turn on the compass which we stole

3.5 wires that led to strange little globes of glass on the walls;

 

 

4.1 the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst and spread its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without breath, and the dust of the road was white in the glow

"What is our name?" they asked.

[4.5] "The Golden One."

[4.9] "The Unconquered."

[4.20] The head of the Golden One bowed slowly, and they stood still before us, their arms at their sides, the palms of their hands turned to us, as if their body were delivered in submission to our eyes.

[4.27] Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they rose and they held the water out to our lips.

4.30 they moved stepping back, as if they could not turn from us, their arms bent before them, as if they could not lower their hands. [devotional posture]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature of Ideas: forgiveness for bad writing often comes via agreement with ideas

 

Question for Tuesday: How rationalize “I” always being “he”?

 

 

Style

Empty subjects, expletive—opening paragraphs

5.1 we made it

Manageable strangeness of we, us, our for I, me, my—does the plural pronoun reach out to include reader?

Ambiguity of “we” at 1.6

1.35 Union 5-3992 are a sickly lad

1.32 In five hours, the shadows are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue with a deep brightness which is not bright. [heroic or mythic simplicity; or biblical—cf. Gospel of Mark]

1.37 mythically simple setting [diminution of setting increases heroic stature of human figure]

Elemental items in setting: iron, stone, fire, soil, sun, tunics, brooms, rakes

3.3 The frog had been hanging on a wire of copper; and it had been the metal of our knife which had sent a strange power to the copper through the brine of the frog's body.

[4.1] Many days passed before we could speak to the Golden One again. But then came the day when the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst and spread its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without breath, and the dust of the road was white in the glow.

Ch. 4 dialogue is somewhat Socratic but stripped, elemental, uncomplicated

Ritual but not stale ritual; rather original, newborn [4.27] Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they rose and they held the water out to our lips.

[5.3] a circle of light lay on the stone before us.

[5.4] We stood, and we held our head in our hands. We could not conceive of that which we had created. We had touched no flint, made no fire. Yet here was light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart of metal.

[5.5] We blew out the candle. Darkness swallowed us. There was nothing left around us, nothing save night and a thin thread of flame in it, as a crack in the wall of a prison. We stretched our hands to the wire, and we saw our fingers in the red glow. We could not see our body nor feel it, and in that moment nothing existed save our two hands over a wire glowing in a black abyss.

[9.13] "We heard that you had gone to the Uncharted Forest, for the whole City is speaking of it. So on the night of the day when we heard it, we ran away from the Home of the Peasants. We found the marks of your feet across the plain where no men walk.

[10.3] We climbed paths where the wild goat dared not follow.

[10.21] We look ahead, we beg our heart for guidance

 

 

 

Appeals

End of ch. 5 conforms to modern ideology of heroic self, acquisition of property and / or knowledge and power

Better book than intended—cf. Death of the Author

Foucault

http://www.scribd.com/doc/10268982/Foucault-What-is-an-Author

 

 

Repulsion content

Dissecting animals, frogs

 

 

 

Utopian tradition

Dystopian, satirical, or counter-utopian tradition

economic system socialism plus or minus incentives--equality over freedom freemarket capitalism--freedom over equality
human unit collective, nation-as-family, equality
 
individual plus or minus patriarchal, hierarchical family (Rand: "Ego" or "I")

 

examples of "human unit"

More: utopia = nation as family

Gilman: women of Herland "think in we's"

Bellamy, Looking Backward, "Mr. Barton's Sermon" ch. 26:

"reaction of a changed environment upon human nature . . . a society which was founded on the pseudo-self-interest of selfishness . . . has been replaced by institutions based on the true self-interest of a rational unselfishness, and appealing to the social and generous instincts of men."

"the means of subsistence distributed from a common stock as among children at the father's table"

 


history for Rand & Anthem

3g. What is utopia’s relation to time and history? Does a utopia stop time, as with the millennial rapture or an idea of perfection? Or can utopias change, evolve, and adapt to the changes of history?

3h. Since our major texts are all set in North America, what is the relation of Utopia to America? What problems does the USA’s cultural context present for discussing utopian issues? (Especially contexts of the Cold War, the collapse of Marxist-Stalinist Communism, the ascendance of religious and freemarket fundamentalism, and stress on the family?)

 

 

Our texts within Western and American history:

text

historical period

historical tradition /
economic trend

More, Utopia (1516) European Renaissance / Reformation; exploration & settlement of New World America as site of Garden of Eden; communal Native America
Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888) late 19th century, "Gilded Age" industrialization, urbanization, plutocracy of limited government, freemarket economics controlled by "Robber Barons" and "Captains of Industry"; gaps b/w rich and poor; high rates of immigration
Gilman, Herland (1915) early 1900s, Progressive Era (associated with Pres. Theodore Roosevelt) labor laws, scientific government and social work, woman's suffrage, environmental conservation and protection, industrial regulation; progressive income taxes
Rand, Anthem (1938) mid-1900s, New Deal & Fair Deal (Franklin Roosevelt & Harry Truman) peak of socialist-oriented government in USA; restricted immigration, government guarantees of social welfare (e. g., Social Security) + Cold War with negative totalitarian utopias of Soviet Union and Communist China
Callenbach, Ecotopia (1975)    

 

 

 


assignments for Anthem

Monday:

read introduction to Anthem, esp. questions of genre on pp. vii-viii

read through p. 77 (through ch. VII) at least

 

Tuesday:

complete Anthem (through ch. XII, p. 105)

 

Discussion of Anthem:

compare / contrast to utopian texts

What do the utopias scant or blur that Rand develops?

dystopia or counter-utopia?

Resemblance to other dystopias or satirical utopias like Brave New World, Nineteen Eight-Four, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies

Dystopia as "inversion" of utopia? (i. e., does dystopia simply turn utopia on its head, or inside out?)

Why do Americans and American schools emphasize dystopias or satirical utopias?

 

Conclusion to Anthem: does it expose the upsides of utopia?

 

 

 


Instructor's view of Ayn Rand

Personal history: When in high school in late 60s I knew a family of serious conservatives, who at the time were regarded with the same sense of eccentricity as liberals are regarded today. The lady of the house (a realtor) knew my interest in literature and gave me a copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

I read it and was a little intrigued but more perplexed and challenged. 

Intrigued: The writing had a raw power rougly comparable to that of Theodore Dreiser

titanic, driven characters

a heavy obviousness that sometimes breaks through to a higher level.

Perplexed and challenged: Around the same time I heard a speech by Ronald Reagan and felt similarly.

Most of my moral education had been that selfishness and the pursuit of personal wealth and power came naturally to human beings. Such qualities had to be recognized but not encouraged or glorified.

Instead of repressing such feelings, both Rand and Reagan seemed to elevate them to a heroic level. 

Overall I backed off for the same reason I remain what others call a liberal or leftist but which I associate simply with intellectual morality as I've seen it modeled and as I've aspired. Namely, I learn little from celebrating or exploiting what is already known or accomplished. Selfishness and greed / ambition may be a given of human existence, but they're only interesting insofar as they can be transformed to something finer, higher, more liberating. Also Reagan and Rand seemed to enjoy an odd sense of intellectual superiority, proclaiming not a special knowledge but a plain, simple, common-sense knowledge that others were inferior for not sharing. More like conversion than learning.

So an early acquaintance with Rand followed by a combined respect and wariness.

Mostly saw Rand being read in airports--seemed to send a signal to other passengers much like reading The Wall Street Journal, namely: I'm not just a traveler but someone who's on serious business.

Otherwise Ayn Rand Institute very active, constantly contacting profs about contests, scholarships, or writing "letters to the editor" like Matt Mayo showed us on our first day.

Overall, ways to describe Ayn Rand academically.

Popular philosopher. As with many popular philosophers, she's not taken very seriously in academic philosophy. A popular following may begin to resemble a cult-of-personality.

Intellectual influence on Conservative Movement of late 20th-early 21st centuries.

Libertarian, freemarket, small-government or anti-government conservatism.

Not religious conservatism, though possibly compatible

Romantic individualism taken to extremes of Nietzschean Superman:

Friedrich Nietzsche

Randians may deny this connection, but Rand's themes sound like phrases and titles associated with Nietzsche:

"The Will to Power"

"Beyond Good and Evil"

Anyway, arrive at these dualities or oppositions:

 

Utopian tradition

Dystopian, satirical, or counter-utopian tradition

economic system socialism plus or minus incentives--equality over freedom freemarket capitalism--freedom over equality
human unit collective, nation-as-family, equality individual plus or minus patriarchal, hierarchical family
     

Vii Objectivist philosophy integrates facts with values . . . the actual nature of man with an exalted and secular admiration for it