Date of Award
Master of Arts
When critics consider utopian literature, they often claim that the utopian imagination is limited in its ability to provide practical instruction for societal reform. In Archaeologies of the Future, Fredric Jameson extends this critique by arguing that the utopian imagination only exists “to demonstrate and to dramatize our incapacity to imagine the future” (288-289). By returning to an early twentieth century utopian novel, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), we can put pressure on Jameson’s ideas about the ultimate function of the utopian imagination. By analyzing the education system in Herland, we are able to see how Gilman integrated the contemporary educational philosophy of John Dewey and methods of Maria Montessori to provide an intellectual and institutional foundation for her utopian education system. Therefore, Gilman provides a set of ‘instructions’ to suggest how we might reform current methods of education to fit within her utopian vision. Gilman’s Herland allows us to see how a highly imaginative utopian text can promote social change to build a ‘better’ future.
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