Archive for February, 2013

Utopia as Transformation

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Utopia is an imaginative endeavor, a conceptual leap that attempts to envision a hypothetical society. Yet the word Utopia also describes a series of real-world projects – from Christianity to Marxism – that bring idealism to bear on the collaborative effort to develop new social structures. It is this intersection of literature and politics that gives Utopian fiction its power. Existing on the frontiers of society – beyond the known borders of the world in early modern times and in the future in more contemporary fiction – Utopian literature has the potential to become reality.

I am drawn to Utopian fiction because of this transformative element. Utopia encompasses the most common catalysts for change in society: political revolution, developments in science and technology, ecological change, religious movements, and alterations in the fundamental nature of humanity. Utopia also more subtly subsumes more subjective transformations, and literary and cultural movements such as surrealism, existentialism, and postmodernism can challenge the fundamental assumptions underlying perceptual reality. While delving into Utopian fiction this semester, I hope to use this transformative power as a unifying theme that will connect disparate times, places, and cultural movements in a conceptual framework extending from the Bible to our modern networked society.

March 7: Seminar with Ralph Dumain on Voyage to Kazohinia

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


Join us on Thursday, March 7 for a discussion with Ralph Dumain on Voyage to Kazohinia!

Ralph Dumain will be leading a discussion on Sándor Szathmári‘s Hungarian utopian novel Voyage to Kazohinia— a novel written in the tradition of Swift and Gulliver’s Travels. Voyage to Kazohinia is a cult classic that has only recently been made available in English.

We will be meeting at the CUNY Graduate Center at 4:15 on Thursday, March 7, in room 3209. 

There’s a copy on reserve at the GC library or you can purchase your own copy on Amazon here:

Some information about our speaker, Ralph Dumain:

Ralph Dumain is a librarian and independent researcher, living in Washington, DC. In 1991 he became librarian/archivist of the C.L.R. James Institute in New York, founded by Jim Murray (1949-2003) to document James’s life and work. Murray’s roots were in the political and cultural activism of the ’60s and ’70s, and the Institute continued in the same spirit, with the aim of making James’s work available to all researchers and the wider public, remaining outside and independent of academia and other traditional institutional forms. This ideal is also reflected in Dumain’s unusual website, The Autodidact Project, which publishes original bibliographies, research guides, and varied writings by Dumain himself, as well as a wide range of writings by others, famous, obscure, or forgotten, providing study material and perspectives that might not otherwise come to the attention of both formally and self-educated readers. Dumain began to teach himself Esperanto as a high school student; a year and a half later he translated Sándor Szathmári’s novella “Vincenzo” into English. In 1987, Esperanto’s centennial, Dumain co-founded the World Atheist Esperanto Organisation (Ateista Tutmonda Esperanto-Organizo; ATEO). Dumain has published in both Esperanto and English, has translated here and there, and has lectured and been interviewed both on C.L.R. James and the social history of Esperanto.



Monday, February 4th, 2013

Welcome to the blog for Possible Worlds, Alternative Futures: The Utopian Studies Seminar of CUNY.

Here, you will be able to:

– Find out more about our events and meetings

– Access podcasts and exclusive interviews with scholars in the field

– Read (or submit) book reviews, reading recommendations, and topics for discussion related to utopian/dystopian literatures

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