Abstract

The Cockaigne (sometimes spelled Cockayne or Cokaygne), also known as Lubberland, predates the coinage of the word utopia, with its earliest expression found in classical Greek literature and some of its best-known expressions from the Middle Ages. Sometimes known as the peoples’ or peasants’ utopia, it was most famously depicted in the 1567 painting known as The Land of Cockaigne by Pieter Breughel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569) or, in English, the medieval poem of that name. A major focus throughout the various examples is an abundance of food. While there have been references to the American depression song “The Big Rock Candy Mountains” as related to the Cockaigne, American expressions of the form have generally not been discussed in the literature. Here I survey the form from the early seventeenth-century immigrant experience through African American responses to slavery and poverty, Native American Indian responses to their oppression, folktales, some children’s literature, depression-era songs, the character of the Shmoo in the comic strip Li’l Abner, and some continuations in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2154-9648
Print ISSN
1045-991X
Pages
pp. 19-40
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-17
Open Access
No
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