A study of European utopias in context from the early years of Henry VIII’s reign to the Restoration, this book is the first comprehensive attempt since J. C. Davis’ Utopia and the Ideal Society (1981) to understand the societies projected by utopian literature from Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) to the political idealism and millenarianism of the mid-seventeenth century. Where Davis concentrated on understanding utopias historically, Renaissance Utopia also seeks to make sense of utopia as a literary form, offering both a new typology of utopia and a new history of European humanist utopianism. This book examines how the utopia was transformed from an intellectual exercise in philosophical interrogation to a serious means of imagining practical social reform. In doing so it argues that the relationship between Renaissance utopia and Renaissance dialogue is crucial; the utopian mode of discourse continued to make use of aspects of dialogue even when the dialogue form itself was in decline. Exploring the ways in which utopian texts assimilated dialogue, Renaissance Utopia complements recent work by historians and literary scholars on early modern communities by providing a thorough investigation of the issues informing a way of modelling a very particular community and literary mode - the utopia.
’From the first chapter to the last, Houston's readings of the works she discusses each offer lucid and insightful accounts of the ideas embodied in them and of the variety of forms in which those ideas are presented. This engaging book illuminates major themes in the intellectual and cultural history of the early modern Europe, not just England.’ David Harris Sacks, Reed College, USA 'For all readers interested in utopian literature, in Renaissance political thought, Reformation theology, and British history, ChloÃ« Houston's The Renaissance Utopia is a well-written, highly instructive, and recommendable contribution to the critical literature on utopia.' Review of English Studies 'The Renaissance Utopia provides a thorough, enjoyable introduction to the development of early modern utopian literature; its analysis of both canonical and marginal figures associated with the tradition will be valuable to students and researchers alike.' Cambridge Quarterly 'The Renaissance Utopia threads the complex nuances of utopian literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries into a tapestry of superb scholarship. It is an extremely interesting book that is well written and easy to read. The book should be in the library of anyone who is interested in English history and literature of this period as well as utopian studies.' Parergon