Date of Award

4-2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Emily Hauptmann

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Corder

Third Advisor

Dr. Jacinda Swanson

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

Utopian works have entertained generations throughout history. Much like more recent genres including science-fiction novels or movies, utopian works stimulate the mind and ultimately cause its readers to question whether an author’s design of such a place, or society, is possible in the real world. While some may perceive the purpose of utopias to be completely fantasy-driven, there is a great deal of scholarly literature that dedicates itself to proving otherwise. More specifically, many scholars argue that utopias are serious and practical, ultimately aimed at re-shaping the entire political structure of a society.

This thesis aims to understand the more pragmatic side of utopian writing by determining the political purposes of three specific utopias: Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), James Harrington’s The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656), and Johann Valentin Andreae’s Christianopolis (1619). These Renaissance-period utopias are explicitly framed by their authors to make drastic changes to the political culture of their time and to prescribe practical solutions to alleviate political problems that they endured. After employing a close reading of the primary sources and secondary works, I argue that these three utopias are intensely political and illustrate that utopias are much more than fictional societies, but places and ideas that were intended to be implemented and incorporated into our world and the political structure that it encompasses.

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