The place of Samuel Butler in English utopian literature; an examination of the techniques of utopian satire employed in Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited
Wall, Donald Frederick
The word "utopia" was first used by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as the title for a book in which he described his vision of a perfect state. since that time it has gone the way of a number of words that have been used and not always universally understood, and in some four hundred years has taken on a number of meanings. More supposedly coined the word from the Greek "outopos", or "nowhere", as the name for an imaginary state embodying an ideal society. But when methods of describing or suggesting ideal societies changed, the meaning of "utopia" was extended to include any representation of an imaginary state. Bacon's New Atlantis, which pictures an ideal society, is a utopia; George Orwell's 1984, which pictures a society far from ideal, is yet a medium of analogy whereby certain features and tendencies of contemporary society are criticized, and thus an intimation of what must be done to make our society ideal. Both works are broadly similar in purpose, and are therefore placed in the frighteningly inclusive category of "utopian" literature. It is the purpose of this thesis to determine which of the techniques employed by Samuel Butler in his utopian works, Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited, are borrowed from his predecessors - in particular, Jonathan Swift - and which are original contributions to the development of the utopian literature of our language. In order to determine the nature and value of these contributions, it will be necessary to look back at least to the work of Thomas More, the first English utopian, and from there to follow the threads of development in method and technique in "utopia-writing" until the time of Butler. It is, of course, impossible completely to separate form from content and purpose, but it is my primary aim to be expository rather than interpretative. It is hoped that, within the stated limits, this work will afford a clearer view of the satirical writings of Samuel Butler, upon which there has hitherto been much disagreement.