Abstract

abstract:

This essay notes a discrepancy between the literary form of Thomas More's Utopia (1516), characterized by sophisticated, ironic play, and the quite restrictive rubrics of mandatory labor that govern life in the book's utopian polity. The discrepancy suggests two things: one, that in the nascent decades of the historic transition to a capitalistic economy in England, it has become possible to conceive of play as a form of productivity; and two, that More has a class investment in demonstrating his own value to the post-feudal economy by defending his authorial play as productive or useful labor. In spite of its communistic rejection of private property and searing critique of enclosure, Utopia is invested in the ambiguities of what it means to play or labor so that it can better construct the idealized, hyperproductive bodies of colonialist expansion, consonant with the New World environment that is the site of the text's political fantasy. What this affirms is that the colonialist imaginary cannot be disentangled from capitalist accumulation, owing in large part to emerging affective discourses around the body as a site of ever-present contestation between industry and idleness.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 36-70
Launched on MUSE
2020-07-14
Open Access
No
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