The Climate of Utopia

Thursday, May 11
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

A lecture by Daniel Williams, a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University.

What role might utopian thinking play in an era of climate change? What, conversely, could reading with a climate lens reveal about literary utopias? Environmental conditions have been a standard if background feature of utopian writing since Thomas More, while contemporary climate science often appeals to utopian conceits (in the guises both of adaptation to, and technological modification of, ecological boundaries). This paper offers an account of the formal qualities joining utopian and climate discourses present and past, and focuses in particular on late Victorian romances: Richard Jefferies’s After London (1885) and William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1891). Read in light of agricultural depression, a dawning awareness of resource scarcity, and proto-ecological critiques of political economy in the nineteenth century, these works embody representational tendencies and contradictions germane to thinking social form in the Anthropocene.

Sponsored by the Climate Change: Disciplinary Challenges to the Humanities and the Social Sciences research project, co-sponsored by the Nicholson Center for British Studies and the 18th and 19th Century Atlantic Cultures Workshop.

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