Utopia and satire: the Travels of Gulliver and others
Utopia and satire have always had a natural affinity. Writing utopian fiction is a subversive act. Even (or especially) where the writer is committed to a conservative or nostalgic view of how human affairs should be conducted, by constructing an imaginary alternative, he or she implies that whatever is, is not right. Like satire, the utopian mirror forces us to see in close-up features of human behaviour and society that may be swollen or shrunk or contorted, but are still all too recognisable. However, which is the monster, the reflection or what is reflected? Just because it professes rationality and order, while being a product of the distrusted imagination, the authority of the utopian discourse is suspect and unstable. The utopian satire is doubly insecure, peculiarly vulnerable to overthrow from within. In this looking-glass world, more than the reader’s illusions are shattered.