The Nationality of Utopia: H. G. Wells, England, and the World State

Date : 24 septembre 2019
Horaire : 16h30-18h30
Lieu : UFR LSH | Bât. 3 | Salle du CETAS (A506) | Mont-Saint-Aignan

Maxim Shadurski, The Nationality of Utopia: H. G. Wells, England, and the World Stat (New York, Routledge, 2019).

Since its generic inception in 1516, utopia has produced visions of alterity which renegotiate, subvert, and transcend existing places. Early in the twentieth century, H. G. Wells linked utopia to the World State, whose post-national, post-Westphalian emergence he predicated on English national discourse. This critical study examines how the discursive representations of England’s geography, continuity, and character become foundational to the Wellsian utopia and elicit competing response from Wells’s contemporaries, particularly Robert Hugh Benson and Aldous Huxley, with further ramifications throughout the twentieth century. Contextualized alongside modern theories of nationalism and utopia, as well as read jointly with contemporary projections of England as place, reactions to Wells demonstrate a shift from disavowal to retrieval of England, on the one hand, and from endorsement to rejection of the World State, on the other. Following Huxley’s attempts to salvage the residual traces of English culture from their abuses in the World State, England’s dissolution in the throes of alterity takes increasing precedence over the visions of a post-national world order and dissents from the Wellsian utopia. This trend continues in the work of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, J. G. Ballard, and Julian Barnes, whose future scenarios warn against a world without England. The Nationality of Utopia investigates utopia’s capacity to deconstruct and redeploy national discourse in ways that surpass fear and nostalgia.

Maxim Shadurski holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Literary Utopias from More to Huxley: The Issues of Genre Poetics and Semiosphere. Finding an Island (2007) and Utopia as a World Model: The Boundaries and Borderlands of a Literary Phenomenon (2016), as well as essays on utopia, nationalism, and landscape. He edits The Wellsian: The Journal of the H. G. Wells Society and serves as an academic advisor for the Gale/Cengage publishing group. He is an Associate Professor of Literary Theory and Comparative Studies at Siedlce University (Poland).