Gardens, Utopias, and the Impulse of Myth

Given the imminent arrival of Naomi Jacobs, who will be presenting on Nature, Utopia, and the Garden tomorrow, Thursday April 11 at 4:15 in room 3209 of the Graduate Center, I figured I would share a quote I came across recently in my reading of the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature by George Claeys.


In his discussion of Oscar Wilde, he writes, “Utopia springs from the same pulse as the myth or the eschatological desire for a better afterlife and thus yearns to realize a condition of happiness, well-being, and social harmony. Indeed, myths of the Island of the Blessed, the Land of the Cockaygne, Elysium, Shangri-La, and the Garden of Eden haunted philosophers, writers, and travellers for centuries and paved the way for the geographical utopia of the Renaissance period and the voyage utopia of the eighteenth century which believed in the transformative quality of alterity” (51).

I’m quite taken by the idea of the geographically-rooted utopia. How could this quote challenge or inform the readings we’ll be looking at for the seminar tomorrow and how can we think about place (and green space) as intertwined with the utopian impulse?

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