Abstract

Abstract:

This essay locates the beginnings of modern European utopian thought and imagination not, as is customary, in Thomas More's canonical Renaissance work, but in the popular medieval topos of Cockaigne: the profane corporal imaginary of the land of shared plenty, pleasure, and leisure, mostly omitted from major and wide-ranging treatments of utopia. The satisfaction of bodily appetites, including erotic desire, through general abundance and freedom from labor that defines the plebeian pays de cocagne—the clearest literary example of which is an anonymous mid-thirteenth-century French poem—resurfaces powerfully in the somatic-utopian, or eusomatic, visions of the Marquis de Sade and Charles Fourier. The projections of these authors pursue (differently, to be sure) a dream of society rooted in the lived body and its passions by availing themselves of Cockaigne's logic of the subversion of hierarchies, laws, and mœurs. This study aims both to correct the bias of the dominant view that the modern utopian tradition owes all of its force to More and to draw attention to the intermittent resurgence of body utopias. A critical historical sketch against the grain, it retrieves this latent and neglected minor strand of utopianism as a resource for utopian thinking across the humanities and social sciences today and beyond.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 4-30
Launched on MUSE
2019-08-02
Open Access
No
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