As an iceberg, floating southward from the frozen North, is gradually undermined by warmer seas, and, become at least unstable, churns the sea to yeast for miles around by the mighty rockings that portend its overturn, so the barbaric industrial and social system, which has come down to us from savage anti-quity, undermined by the modern humane spirit, riddled by the criticism of economic science, is shaking the world with convulsions that presage its collapse
However, this America was not only an exultant New Paradise, a grand Utopia destined for greatness; it was also a country coming of age. The "almighty dollar" was on its way to become an internationally understood phrase.
As majestic "The Icebergs'" symbolism of a God-given eternal strength of nature and mankind, worries about where America was heading for began gradually to supercede the former attitude, and became associated with the image instead. An era of confidence was succeeded by a period of turbulent transition. 1870 is said to have much of symbolic value. It marked the beginning of a new time in Western civilization, an era of flourishing and dynamic industrialism, of imperialism, of new moral and religious freedom: in short, the transvaluation of traditional values took place. The increasing power of social development appeared to disquiet the nation, and it was perceived as the inevitable release of future apocalyptic processes.
Thus, the iceberg-image, as metaphorically utilized by Edward Bellamy in 1888, had lost its former symbolism, and it became the tertium comparationis of wordly demise and disappearance. A floating iceberg's destiny that is to vanish gradually into the spatial infinity of nature, which itself is being altered by intrinsic dynamics, pictorially expressed the increasing concern (of) for the whole-sale rearrangement of the U.S. American capitalist society. This society faced a looming state of crisis. The reversal of a conception of a chosen America to one that was doomed became reflected in a spreading pessimism.
The idea of America as a future utopia that had found its expression in the early iceberg image had turned vulnerable; its underlying notion of a scientifically grounded as well as providential order of life was exposed to the social disruptions and found a reinterpretation among modern doubters and dissenters. A deeply seated myopian. perspective which originated in such a negative perception of social life eventually lead to a reaction in literature that is called dystopian. Writers of dystopias projected a hellish life in a hellish society. It is an anti-utopian vision full of catastrophic cataclysm that's been created although it is distinguished by an apocalyptic nature.
The place 'nowhere', utopia, has come to be taken as the good place and as the
signifier generally used to designate an imaginary plan of a government where
all is ruled for the common happiness. However, utopia is of a multifaceted complexity which
presents itself in the counterbalance of its two aspects: an optimistic as well as pessimistic outlook.
Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy, for instance, is one of the optimistic novels of late-19th century American utopian literature. Nonetheless, it seems to revoke on its last page what it has established throughout its narrative: offering clarity, hope, and solutions for the readers' world of reality and future.The iceberg-trope namely, alludes to a diametrically opposed conception which poses the possibility of decline and, if interpreted more extremely, catastrophy. That means, this last picture is a grim image of disorder, madness, and irreplacable disintegration within the 'great utopia', and it is the stark prefiguration of a completely opposite situation that Bellamy's book primarily evokes. The "barbaric industrial and social system", inherited from "savage antiquity" which exists undeniably out there is more real than what can be found in here [the book], the iceberg-analogy seems to suggest.
With other words, this example demonstrates in how far optimistic and pessimistic visions go together, and why both of them could be regarded as projections on to each other. That means that one serves as the necessary contrast for the other.
Reality, from which an utopian vision is always extrapolated, offers in many cases a fairly bleak picture. To counteract such a depressive reality, the utopian imagery offers an ideal life in an ideal society. Utopia, however, turns out to be synonymous with impossible, too. It is wanted because it is supposed to be perfect but it appears to be out of reach. Thus, utopias symbolize the distant horizons of peoples' searches for happiness.
Those narratives with a predominantly optimistic development and a positive ending could be, according to the term's prevalent conception, called utopian. Those others that reflect a pessimistic world-view can be termed dystopian. Making a distinction among those literary representations of gloomy utopias, a difference between anti-utopia and dystopia ought to be pointed out.
Both dystopian as well as anti-utopian visions are in a sense utopian visions. Dystopians are like utopians reformers of the mind, or perhaps more accurately, would-be reformers who are openly anxious, indeed pessimistic about the future. Like utopians they discern looming, threatening changes in their society, and stress their immediacy or presence respectively. Unlike utopians, they despair of any truly hopeful solution to them. The ability of the utopian mind to accept or prefigure the future as the radically new (new in the sense of progressive) doesn't exist for the dystopian. However, dystopian partially understands its predicted, inevitable catastrophic 'end' as a modest 'new'. In how far this 'new' will be able to thrive amidst an encompassing disaster is unclear.
Anti-utopian, on the other hand, in fact describes the absolute opposite of utopia. That means, there will be no `new' whatsoever. Nevertheless, it could be regarded as linked to utopia in the sense that, although different in ideology, it also tries to predict the future: its message, however, is a paranoid helplessness that will make a great debacle happen. As a consequence, this disaster will not allow to make anything new out of the doomed course of the world.
Eventually, it would be interesting to contemplate whether we had better think of U-chronia (or Eu-chronia) or Dys-chronia respectively since many relevant utopias and dystopias deal less with where their worlds are located than with when.
In case of dystopia, it is hard to imagine that, except for dark humour or a contingent warning, the frame of reference upon which the dystopian projection is drawn was already acceptable.
Cataclysmic writers of the late 19th century such as Ignatius Donnelly shared the feeling of being cheated and swept aside by progress, and they were therefore on the defensive against modern times. Their perception of gradually falling victim to modernity resulted in the conviction that they were victimized. The dystopian stance they adapted was therefore especially dark. At the same time, a notion of an "impending apocalypse," as Guiseppa S. Battisti calls it, materializes in their dystopian perspective in precisely this cataclysm of massive power (Battisti 45). It will allow the faint possibility of re-creation. A few survive to see the outbreak of a new eon. But it is arguable whether the forces of good will permanently triumph over the forces of evil in the new life as predicted by the dystopians.
According to what the cataclysmic eruption results in, namely disruption, annihilation, destruction, and chaos, violence determines and preoccupies the cataclysmic's mind. When a society is in real danger of annihilation, pessimistic judgements may be grounded in a clear analysis of the objective conditions. Cataclysmic writing provides the evidence of hostile aggression, but the restriction of that aggression to the imaginative narratives is a form of withdrawal before reality. Nevertheless, the catastrophe is brought about by the social elements who have suffered and endured hardship and exploitation. Their aim is to destroy what they feel is destroying them. Violence becomes a means to achieve that end. In how far it is legitimate depends on the end. Perhaps violence can never be legitimized-cataclysmics apparently can.
The Cataclysmics of the late 19th century eventually created a vengeful
vision of global disaster as soon as they realized that
the changing society wasn't going to respect their traditional
beliefs, virtues, and convictions. As Jaher says, their "Cataclysm was to be the reward of outraged virtue" (8).
The Railroad Strike of 1877 had raised first doubts about the growing number of immigrants but this didn't become serious concern until the 1880s. Labour conflict on the other hand, as Jaher claims, which had given the Panic of 1873 a "...dimension of grim class conflict...," caused more concern since it was a "definite break in the postwar [Civil War] of security and gave rise to anxiety" (Jaher 35). However, as a result of the returning prosperity in general, socialist and anarchist organizations were also checked by the economic upsurge. The first half of the 1880s appears to have been relatively calm although still influenced by the ups and downs of the 1870s. But stormier times were to come.
Towards the close of the century, in the 1890s, the strikes were bigger, more frequent, and more violent. The Homestead Strike as the prelude of a whole series of strikes [in 1894 there were 394 strikes (Jaher 42)] occurred in the context of more than one million unemployed. The Panic of 1893 was more ruinous. The cities grew bigger and faster, and so did the problems related to urbanization; a scapegoat had to be found: the image of the immigrants got another striking blow. Now, the people arriving in the states were considered only the 'wrong kinds' of immigrants. As a consequence, xenophobia became more wide-spread.
On the one hand, Donnelly turned cataclysmic because he wanted to
destroy the society that denied success to his expectations of an America
the way he dreamt it and to himself; on the other hand, he also had an
utopian phantasy which despite his nightmarish
prediction in his writing gave life to a community in which his dream could become
materialized (123). A pastoral paradise, like the remote, still virgin world
that remains at the end of Caesar's Column, serves as a glorification of
the past, of his 'Golden Age'. His cataclysmic response, that is violent protest or even revolution undermining those rapid changes in his society, shed a light on his myopic and 'cosmic pessimism' which regard those changes as relentlessly overpowering and irrevocable.
Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward 2000 - 1887. Edited by John L.Thomas. Cambridge,Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Caesar's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century. Edited by Walter B.Rideout. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,1960.
Battisti - Guiseppa Saccaro. "Changing Metaphors of Political Structures." In: Journal of the History of Ideas 44, (January/March 1983): 31-54.
Jaher, Frederic Cople. Doubters and Dissenters: Cataclysmic Thought in America, 1885 - 1918. London: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964.
Patai, Daphne (ed.). Looking Backward, 1988-1888. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.
Roemer, Kenneth M. The Obsolete Necessity: America in Utopian Writings, 1888-1900. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1976.
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