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Imaginary Communities: 07/24/15

Imaginary Communities by Phillip Wegner

Imaginary Communities by Phillip Wegner is a literary analysis of the utopian / dystopian story. Utopia is literally "no place", coined by Sir Thomas More in the book of the same title. It was written as a piece of political philosophy and the utopian / dystopian genres continue to be either political or social commentaries.

With books like Lost Horizon by James Hilton, and on the kids' side of things, L. Frank Baum's Oz books, Utopian societies became perfect renditions of the city state. If Utopia is now the best of the best (and perhaps the unobtainable perfection), then there must be a polar opposite, a worst of the worst. Therein lies dystopia (or "bad place").

Imaginary Communities attempts to outline the evolution of the utopian / dystopian dichotomy through a lengthy historical outline from More's book onward through some modern classics. Unfortunately it gets laid up on three things: a never ending rehash of other philosopher's ideas on the subject, a similarly long promise of analysis that never materializes, and pages and pages of plot summary where the original analysis should be.

After slogging through the book I was left with no good sense of what Wagner's views on utopia or dystopia are. I know which books he read and I know which theorists he's a student of. But his thoughts? His contribution to the understanding of the genres? I'm still left wondering.

Two stars

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