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Timbuktu1
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Utopia

Anyone interested in discussing Sir Thomas More's Utopia?
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Everyman
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Re: Utopia

It's been awhile. I would have to re-read it to be able to discuss it intelligently. And have you seen my to-be-read pile? :smileyhappy:

Timbuktu1 wrote:
Anyone interested in discussing Sir Thomas More's Utopia?


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Timbuktu1
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Re: Utopia



Everyman wrote:
It's been awhile. I would have to re-read it to be able to discuss it intelligently. And have you seen my to-be-read pile? :smileyhappy:

Timbuktu1 wrote:
Anyone interested in discussing Sir Thomas More's Utopia?







Knowing you, you probably remember it better after years than I will after days.

I have to read it in the next two weeks. Book l this week, Book 2 next. So far it's enjoyable. Lots of references to the Republic. Curious to see the differences.
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bellsofireland
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Re: Utopia

[ Edited ]
I have read a *lot* about Tudor England, and Sir Thomas More made a very interesting character, both in historical fiction and in non-fiction. I found myself researching the requirements for sainthood because More was canonized after his death.

I was also interested in Utopia because it was the very first, the original of the utopian genre, which then spawned the anti-utopian genre, resulting in such works as 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Giver, Harrison Bergeron, Anthem, The Island, etc. Having read all of these (and a few more I'm not thinking of at the moment) and liked most of them, I was excited about reading the book that was, in a way, the source of each.

So when I picked up Utopia, I was all eager anticipation. I was extremely disappointed to find that the writing was dry, dull, and far too detached. Thomas more is telling us about his friend, who knows this guy who went to Utopia, and about this guy's conversation with this other guy. We're getting the story fourth-hand! It kind of makes you wonder why you're reading it when you have to go through that many people from the person telling it to the person who experienced it. I know that the point of Utopia is not in the story-telling, rather it is in the ideas, but I can't seem to muster the interest for the ideas when they are presented in such a dull manner.

He's very much like Henry David Thoreau in that sense - fascinating character to read about, brilliant ideas, but unable to write engagingly when presenting those ideas. Of course, I mean no offense to anyone who liked this book (or the writings of Thoreau) - it just wasn't something I enjoyed. For me the writing is equally important, if not more, as the subject matter.

Message Edited by bellsofireland on 06-22-2008 04:56 AM

Message Edited by bellsofireland on 06-22-2008 05:16 AM
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. ~Oscar Wilde
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Timbuktu1
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Re: Utopia



bellsofireland wrote:
I have read a *lot* about Tudor England, and Sir Thomas More made a very interesting character, both in historical fiction and in non-fiction. I found myself researching the requirements for sainthood because More was canonized after his death.

I was also interested in Utopia because it was the very first, the original of the utopian genre, which then spawned the anti-utopian genre, resulting in such works as 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Giver, Harrison Bergeron, Anthem, The Island, etc. Having read all of these (and a few more I'm not thinking of at the moment) and liked most of them, I was excited about reading the book that was, in a way, the source of each.

So when I picked up Utopia, I was all eager anticipation. I was extremely disappointed to find that the writing was dry, dull, and far too detached. Thomas more is telling us about his friend, who knows this guy who went to Utopia, and about this guy's conversation with this other guy. We're getting the story fourth-hand! It kind of makes you wonder why you're reading it when you have to go through that many people from the person telling it to the person who experienced it. I know that the point of Utopia is not in the story-telling, rather it is in the ideas, but I can't seem to muster the interest for the ideas when they are presented in such a dull manner.

He's very much like Henry David Thoreau in that sense - fascinating character to read about, brilliant ideas, but unable to write engagingly when presenting those ideas. Of course, I mean no offense to anyone who liked this book (or the writings of Thoreau) - it just wasn't something I enjoyed. For me the writing is equally important, if not more, as the subject matter.

Message Edited by bellsofireland on 06-22-2008 04:56 AM

Message Edited by bellsofireland on 06-22-2008 05:16 AM




Have you read The Republic? Utopia is a take-off on that. A kind of Christianized version. I understand what you're saying, it's not an easy book to get into. But there is a lot of irony and sly wit. I not only read it (several times) but listened to it repeatedly on tape. As with most great books it took some effort at the beginning but there was a huge pay-off. His genius appears only after some study. It also helped to have read The Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals by Kant just before Utopia. On this site there is a really interesting thread on Utopia that also provided me with a lot of insight.
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Re: Utopia

bellsofireland wrote: ...I was also interested in Utopia because it was the very first, the original of the utopian genre, which then spawned the anti-utopian genre,...

More certainly coined the term utopia (Greek for no where), but Plato's Republic is often credited with being the first utopian literature.
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Re: Utopia



Everyman wrote:
bellsofireland wrote: ...I was also interested in Utopia because it was the very first, the original of the utopian genre, which then spawned the anti-utopian genre,...

More certainly coined the term utopia (Greek for no where), but Plato's Republic is often credited with being the first utopian literature.




Utopia is also a pun on eu-topia, good place.
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bellsofireland
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Re: Utopia

I have read The Republic, actually (also found that one boring, but I might be a bit prejudiced against Plato after having to suffer through The Last Days of Socrates in college). I know that it's credited as being the first, but I tend to affiliate the others I've read with Utopia more because The Republic is so ancient. I know works of that age can still be relevant today, but in my last post I was thinking just about the last few centuries, and also, I read most of those books for school, and we spent a good amount of time discussing the backgrounds of the authors - many of them cited Utopia as inspiration.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. ~Oscar Wilde
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Timbuktu1
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Re: Utopia

My take on Utopia was that More's voice came through both the character of More and the character of Hythloday. It seemed to me that he was sort of arguing with himself, his empirical, practical self and his idealistic, unrealistic self. I also thought that I could hear the rumblings of the reformation. Although the church was organized partly along the lines of the Republic, the institutionalization of Christianity had led to corruption. I thought More was trying to get at that, trying to put people back in touch with the basic ideas of Christianity and at the same time point out the immorality of government but he could not speak openly and freely. The argument he gives us between the character More and Hythloday, about the futility of speaking truth to power is the argument he's struggling with and this book is his solution. He's speaking truth to power under disguise, as you say, fourth hand.
Had he done it first hand his ultimate fate (beheading) would have come much sooner. Ultimately he chose idealism for himself. I find More, the man and the writer, inspirational. Without idealism, without the form of the good, power reigns. We may never have a perfect world (Utopia) but we have to have a vision to aim towards. Without that, what is there? Might makes right?

There's also a lot of ambiguity in the book. He keeps us guessing about his true feelings, much as Plato does, and in the end we have to decide for ourselves.
I actually enjoyed a lot of the things he did, his "letter" writing gave the book veracity and a folksy quality that drew me in. He winks at us. In the first letter he explains how people always reject new ideas. Then he presents us with new ideas. It's a set-up.

Anyway, these are, off the top of my head, some of the things I got out of the book.
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Re: Utopia

bellsofireland wrote: ... The Republic is so ancient. I know works of that age can still be relevant today,

As one who is pretty ancient myself, I see nothing wrong at all with ancient! :smileyhappy:

But it not only can be relevant today, it is extraordinarily relevant today -- more relevant to our lives than, from my reading at least, about 90% of stuff published in your lifetime, or maybe even in my lifetime (though that takes in a lot), is.
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Re: Utopia

But the reason I brought it up was because it was More's reference point. He refers to Plato again and again. Plato's idealism is the issue he's dealing with. Sometimes it seemed as though the book was a spoof of the Republic. This is More's Republic.
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Re: Utopia

More's Republic? Hmmm. Interesting way to refer to it. I have to think on that.

Timbuktu1 wrote:
But the reason I brought it up was because it was More's reference point. He refers to Plato again and again. Plato's idealism is the issue he's dealing with. Sometimes it seemed as though the book was a spoof of the Republic. This is More's Republic.


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Re: Utopia

Wow, I didn't think this topic would get to be so lively. I don't want to give off any false impressions, such as that I'm shallow in my reading, or that I need to be entertained and thrilled throughout any book, or that I can't appreciate the ideas in the book or how important they were at the time, or how relevant they are now. The only point I really meant to make about Utopia itself was that I found the writing to be dry. And, as an editor, the writing is often more important to me (though not by much) than the concept of a book.

timbuktu, your paragraph about the ideas in Utopia was actually very interesting to read. If More had had some of your style, I might have been able to enjoy his mind a bit more. I was quite disappointed not to have enjoyed the book, since I do have a lot of respect for Thomas More - and his ideas.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. ~Oscar Wilde
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Timbuktu1
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Re: Utopia



bellsofireland wrote:
Wow, I didn't think this topic would get to be so lively. I don't want to give off any false impressions, such as that I'm shallow in my reading, or that I need to be entertained and thrilled throughout any book, or that I can't appreciate the ideas in the book or how important they were at the time, or how relevant they are now. The only point I really meant to make about Utopia itself was that I found the writing to be dry. And, as an editor, the writing is often more important to me (though not by much) than the concept of a book.

timbuktu, your paragraph about the ideas in Utopia was actually very interesting to read. If More had had some of your style, I might have been able to enjoy his mind a bit more. I was quite disappointed not to have enjoyed the book, since I do have a lot of respect for Thomas More - and his ideas.





Thank you for the compliment! I'm printing it out and putting it on my refrigerator! It was quite a surprise!

I was a little afraid that you might think I was being a bit critical of your reading and that's certainly not what I meant. I really understand. I found both the Republic and Utopia very difficult and I'm sure I've still missed a lot, there's so much there. If I hadn't been reading them for a class I'm sure I would never have gotten through them. But after having plowed through them, with tremendous effort, I feel so rewarded that I wanted to share that with you.
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Re: Utopia

Lively is good!

No false impressions -- anybody who reads Utopia can't be accused of shallow reading tastes, whether or not they enjoyed it.

What sort of editing do you do?

bellsofireland wrote:
Wow, I didn't think this topic would get to be so lively. I don't want to give off any false impressions, such as that I'm shallow in my reading, or that I need to be entertained and thrilled throughout any book, or that I can't appreciate the ideas in the book or how important they were at the time, or how relevant they are now. The only point I really meant to make about Utopia itself was that I found the writing to be dry. And, as an editor, the writing is often more important to me (though not by much) than the concept of a book.

timbuktu, your paragraph about the ideas in Utopia was actually very interesting to read. If More had had some of your style, I might have been able to enjoy his mind a bit more. I was quite disappointed not to have enjoyed the book, since I do have a lot of respect for Thomas More - and his ideas.


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bellsofireland
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Re: Utopia

Whatever kind they'll let me.  I'm 23, working toward a Masters so I can edit for a major publishing company, and my job in the mean time is editing anything that comes our way (reports, essays, articles, theses, business proposals, contracts, etc.), getting familiar with different types of editing.  I won't be able to do books until I have the degree. 
 
And thanks for the reassurance, guys.  I'd really hate to accidentally portray myself as shallow, when I feel the way that I do about books.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. ~Oscar Wilde
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