Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

New Worlds Reflected: Travel and Utopia in the Early Modern Period

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

New Worlds Reflected: Travel and Utopia in the Early Modern Period

Article excerpt

Chloë Houston (ed.), New Worlds Reflected: Travel and Utopia in the Early Modern Period, Farnham & Burlington, VT, Ashgate, 2010, pp. xi + 262, hb. £65.00, ISBN: 978-0-7546-6647-9

'The relationship between travel writing and utopia [in the early modern period] was not only one of literary form', writes Chloë Houston in her introduction to this volume of nine essays; 'rather, the ideas with which each of these forms of writing engaged interacted and coincided in interesting and provocative ways which have yet to be fully considered' (p. 6). New Worlds Reflected sets out to explore this promising scholarly terrain; and, like the lands envisioned by many of the authors studied in this collection, it turns out to be very fertile territory indeed.

New Worlds Reflected is divided into three parts, each of which comprises three essays. The first part, on 'Utopia and Knowledge', brings together David Harris Sacks's wide-ranging and compelling discussion of the spiritual dimensions of England's quest for Empire (in particular as encountered in the writing and editorial practice of Richard Hakluyt); William Poole's comparative study of Johannes Kepler's Somnium and Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone-texts which, Poole remarks, 'both have some claim to be called the first pieces of science fiction in European literature' (p. 57); and Line Cottegnies's argument for the influence of Francis Bacon's New Atlantis on Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World. Part II, on 'Utopian Communities and Piracy', comprises Kevin P. MacDonald's entertaining piece on English attempts to colonise Madagascar, which argues convincingly for the need to expand the boundaries of Atlantic historiography to establish 'an alternative model called Indo-Atlantic world history' (p. 96); Claire Jowitt's discussion of the politics behind the terminology used to describe Drake's brand of sea-theft; and Analisa DeGrave's essay on that fascinating 'runaway' settlement in colonial Brazil, the Palmares. The final part, entitled 'Utopia and the State', is the most tightly-conceived and conceptually sophisticated of the three. Opening with Chloë Houston's intriguing discussion of the impact of utopian texts on educational reform, it continues with Rosanna Cox's study of utopian discourse's role in imagining new forms of government (in particular in the writings of Milton and Nedham), and concludes with Daniel Carey's lively reading of Henry Neville's enigmatic and alluring text, The Isle of Pines. …

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