Utopia, Desire, and Exigence: Re-Theorizing Utopia as Rhetorical Action
Lemke, David Alessandro
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In this paper, I seek to redefine Utopia as a literary genre. Specifically, I argue that Utopias and utopian literature should be read as socially situated actions that are interpreted through an exigence composed of the rhetorical and socio-political situation from which an author writes and a critic reads. In the first half of the paper, I argue that by reading Utopias as actions the inherent subjectivity in literary studies can be redirected in a more positive direction. Instead of arguing about the positive or negative aspects of a utopian work’s content, critics can focus on the effect such texts have in critiquing and reimagining our society. In the second half of the paper, I read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake against the business practices and advertising of Monsanto Company to suggest ways in which my system of analysis can be more beneficial for utopian studies and leftist literary criticism.