What is Utopia?

Utopia is an ideal place that does not exist in reality. The word utopia, which comes from the Greek for outopia, meaning "no place," and eutopia, meaning "good place," is itself a pun referring to a nonexistent good place.

The term utopia derives from Utopia (1515-1516), a book written in Latin by the Renaissance humanist Sir Thomas More which describes a perfect commonwealth. More formed his title by conflating the Greek words “eutopia” and “outopia”. More’s famous pieces of utopian literature refer not only to an imaginary, perfect place, but also to a work describing such a place. The utopian genre reached its height much later, flourishing in nineteenth-century Anglo-American literature.

Utopias are frequently depicted as places that have been lost, forgotten or unknown to the society of the author or to any other society. They are generally “rediscovered” by some fictitious, adventurous traveler who somehow ends up in a very distant and delightful land and then returns to tell stories about this fantastic place. Some utopian texts subtly satirize the specific utopia described; others satirize humanity’s dreams about and longing for utopia in general. Dystopias are the opposite of utopias; they are horrific places, usually characterized by degenerate or oppressive societies.

Some of the examples are Plato’s Republic (c. 260 B.C.). Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1627), Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872), William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1888), H.G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia (1900).

Published on 22 Sept. 2014 by Kedar Nath Sharma

Related Topics

Plato: Biography

Fracis Bacon: Biography