The Nationality of Utopia
H. G. Wells, England, and the World State
Since its generic inception in 1516, utopia has produced visions of alterity which renegotiate, subvert, and transcend existing places. Early in the twentieth century, H. G. Wells linked utopia to the World State, whose post-national, post-Westphalian emergence he predicated on English national discourse. This critical study examines how the discursive representations of England’s geography, continuity, and character become foundational to the Wellsian utopia and elicit competing response from Wells’s contemporaries, particularly Robert Hugh Benson and Aldous Huxley, with further ramifications throughout the twentieth century. Contextualized alongside modern theories of nationalism and utopia, as well as read jointly with contemporary projections of England as place, reactions to Wells demonstrate a shift from disavowal to retrieval of England, on the one hand, and from endorsement to rejection of the World State, on the other. Attempts to salvage the residual traces of English culture from their degradation in the World State have taken increasing precedence over the imagination of a post-national order. This trend continues in the work of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, J. G. Ballard, and Julian Barnes, whose future scenarios warn against a world without England. The Nationality of Utopia investigates utopia’s capacity to deconstruct and redeploy national discourse in ways that surpass fear and nostalgia.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. English Utopia and Utopian England
Chapter 2. The Wellsian Utopia and the Discourse of England
Chapter 3. England in Transition: Memory, Politics, and Technology
Chapter 4. England Redeemed: The Road, the Rose, and the Dream
Chapter 5. The End of England: Eugenics, Landscape, and Recollection
Coda: England for England’s Sake?
Maxim Shadurski holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Literary Utopias from More to Huxley: The Issues of Genre Poetics and Semiosphere. Finding an Island (2007) and Utopia as a World Model: The Boundaries and Borderlands of a Literary Phenomenon (2016), as well as essays on utopia, nationalism, and landscape. He edits The Wellsian: The Journal of the H. G. Wells Society and serves as an academic advisor for the Gale/Cengage publishing group. He is an Associate Professor of English Literature at Siedlce University (Poland).
"H. G. Wells was a profoundly English writer who championed an ideal of world citizenship. Maxim Shadurski's examination of this paradox is both searching and timely. It should be read by anyone interested in Wells and in the reflections of nationality in modern utopian writing."
--Patrick Parrinder, President, H. G. Wells Society
"This is an excellent study of England as a contemporary place and England as a futuristic state of mind converging in the works of H. G. Wells, undoubtedly one of the "Englishest" of all English writers. Maxim Shadurski revisits Wells’s "visions of alterity" with a fresh and insightful perspective and then aptly examines how these visions served as fodder for the dystopian writers of the following generations, including Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. Highly recommended!"
--Galya Diment, Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, University of Washington.
Thorough and insightful, The Nationality of Utopia explores productively the strange extent to which ideas of Utopia came to be conflated with ideas of England, offering innovative, persuasive views, throughout, of the authors and contexts concerned.
--Professor Randall Stevenson, The University of Edinburgh
A landmark in Wells scholarship. No one has ever traced so effectively the importance of Englishness in Britishness in the work of a writer so engaged in questions of nationality and the global; especially impressive is the attention that The Nationality of Utopia gives to some of Wells's later, less considered works.
--Professor Simon J. James, The University of Durham
This splendid book locates H.G.Wells in the context of other contemporary and later utopian and dystopian fiction in England, stressing Wells' positive postnational vision, in contrast to the negative portrayals in the writings of a number of his contemporaries. The arguments are highly original and nuanced and the study makes a major contribution to utopian studies and to an understanding of twentieth-century literature and politics more broadly.
--Laura Marcus, Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature, New College, The University of Oxford
Shadurski’s study addresses Wellsian utopianism from two, we might think, opposite angles: nationalism, on the one hand, and Wells’s lifelong proselytising for a World State, on the other. It proves an illuminating pincer movement and facilitates a series of original and penetrating readings of several key Wellsian works. [...] there is no doubt that this book is a major intervention into both the study of Wells as a writer and thinker, and into utopian theory more broadly. Anyone interested in either field will want to seek it out, and future critical debate on both topics will need to take it into account.
--Adam Roberts, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, Royal Holloway University of London, The Wellsian
The Nationality of Utopia is a compelling study, which – with its emphasis on the literary portrayal of Wells’s World State – might be read alongside W. Warren Wagar’s classic H. G. Wells and the World State (1961) by anyone seeking a comprehensive understanding of Wells’s conception. [...] Shadurski’s study is hugely relevant to present-day concerns, particularly (as he notes himself) Brexit, which (it might be said) was driven by an isolationist discourse that sees England as a special, even providential, nation.
--Dr Steven McLean, Associate Professor of English Literature, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature
By suggesting intersections between Wells’s thought and that of Benson, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess and Barnes, Shadurski provides hooks upon which future research can be hung. If considered as an introduction to its subject, Shadurski’s volume has a role to play for students of utopian thought, and its availability as an affordable e-book means there is no reason why such students should not quite readily access it.
--Dr John S. Partington, independent scholar, Utopian Studies
Maxim Shadurski’s study demonstrates that reading utopia through the lens of its inflection by nationalism provides an inspiring impulse to rethink both discourses as complementary rather than mutually exclusive. [...] The Nationality of Utopia is a treat, discussing as it does in detail H. G. Wells’s numerous works and theories in a broad context both of his own times and those of the following decades.
--Professor Barbara Kłonowska, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, New Horizons in English Studies
Shadurski’s analysis is an eminently readable journey into 20th-century literary visions of the future and therefore a worthy contribution to the rich field of Wellsian scholarship.
--Professor Oliver von Knebel Doeberitz, The University of Leipzig, Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies
Maxim Shadurski’s The Nationality of Utopia: H. G. Wells, England, and the World State is an exceptionally interesting study that could be useful not only to researchers of utopia in English literature but to all those investigating the issues of nation and nationality in the context of utopian and/or globalist discourse. Nowadays, when there is so much talk about the need for a global ‘reset’, for a kind of global solution to the accumulated problems the world is facing, we should bear in mind that Wells also wrote about these matters, yet from a different perspective. We seem to be getting ever closer to dystopia and further away from utopia, and in moments like these it is crucial that we critically reappraise the original utopian ideas, just like Shadurski masterfully does.
--Professor Zorica Đergović-Joksimović, The University of Novi Sad, Književna istorija