ABSTRACT

In critical discussions of utopian fiction it is quite common to encounter the argument that such work is political. But what are the politics of the genre and how do they work? These are the questions this chapter will begin to address. To do this requires a shift from textual criticism to cultural studies, and from textuality to social practices of reading. Therefore, my argument here, and even more so in chapter 6, is that the politics of utopian fiction are not something texts have; they are, if they are anything at all, a result of what readers do with these texts. For these politics to have a social impact they have to move from writing to practices of reading. Formal analysis can tell us many things, but for the politics of utopian fiction to be political where it matters, they have to exist in the social activities of readers. We can argue endlessly that this text is political but unless someone reads it and acts upon what they read, this is a politics that will hardly trouble the prevailing structures of power.