Abstract

This article considers Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1915 novel Herland in the larger utopian tradition and argues that it can be classified as a scientific utopia, in the tradition of Bacon's New Atlantis. Herland is frequently mischaracterized as "Arcadian" and "pastoral." In reality, the novel presents an advanced industrialized society that uses radical environmental engineering. The article challenges a number of critical readings from ecofeminism and feminist science studies in characterizing the novel, which has been abundantly studied in terms of gender politics but far less so in terms of the scientific utopia. Also covered are the novel's engagements with the population principle and eugenics—controversial issues in the novel's time and in our own but familiar territory in the utopian tradition. Though the Herlanders' mastery of their environment and population is impressive on one level, on another it is disconcerting, and the novel, from our point of view, can be said to have a place in another tradition—the technological dystopia. Last, brief consideration is given to the question of whether science can be a legitimate basis of utopia and what Herland contributes to this ongoing debate.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2154-9648
Print ISSN
1045-991X
Pages
pp. 286-304
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-19
Open Access
No
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