This page will develop over the next couple of weeks (December 2011) as I compile the list, so please check back from time to time. The lists follow MLA bibliographic format just for my own ease of access; most titles are of course available in various editions. I am including two categories: Utopia, and Theory. Some theory-type titles are more pointedly about utopia and will be included in that section. Some items will have notations.

Responses to the following list and suggestions of texts or authors or ideas or anything with regard to utopia, especially, including any medium or genre, visual, print, record, or otherwise, are eagerly and enthusiastically welcome.

A note on “utopia”: only in a very limited context do I consider utopia to be a literary genre, though this is one definition of the term. My current working definition is informed by probably two main influences: one is Ruth Levitas and her work toward developing the field of utopian studies with scholarly rigour; the other is my own suspicions and life experience within the counterculture, especially childhood. So, utopia includes that which that can be said to express the utopian impulse; utopias or utopian works or ideas are, for me, not necessarily measured against a rubric of perfection or totality. Also, they include expressions of dystopia–the two are, after all, intrinsically linked.  There seems to be an urgent and continuous impulse toward locating or creating a so-called better way, regardless of how possible, cynical, ironic, or idealistic it might be. My approach to utopia begins with the basic thought that the impulse toward it exists exactly as a pulse that persists on its own–deliberate, nuanced, shabby, vital, ongoing, and various.


A note: many of the following books emphasise the West Coast (often perceived as a utopian destination or space; as in, “It’s paradise!). I have not really settled on a definition of the West Coast that determines how far it extends inland, north, or south. Loosely though I find that geographical and regional borders–blurry ones–as well as ideological borders best outline it. Even better is what things come up that challenge the borders and problematise the situation in general.

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Vintage, 1996.
For my interest in phenomenological encounters.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verson, 2006.

Bay Laurel, Alicia. Living on the Earth. New York: Vintage, 1971.
If you can get your hands on this book, do. It is a hand-drawn, intuitively-organised manifesto about how to drop everything and go back to the land, including instructions on how to give birth and die there. My mom tells me that she knew people who did just this with nothing really much more than this book for guidance.

Blanchet, M. Wylie. The Curve of Time. 2010 ed. Sidney: Whitecap, 2010. Grey’s Pub.
A collection of creative non-fiction/autobiographical accounts of Blanchet, “Capi,” exploring the lacy and remote waterways of the west coast of British Columbia with her five children and their dog in a 25-foot boat (think about that for a second) during the fifties. I have recently switched my focus for my grad work from Vonnegut (below) to Blanchet, partly in order to work on a text that brings up settler-indigene context issues, especially indigenization. (But it is still totally about utopia.)

Boyle, T.C. Drop City. New York: Penguin, 2003.
A novel. Set on the West Coast up to and including Alaska. A 1970 California commune moves to the north to reinvigorate themselves and try to establish a utopia.

Bruce, Susan. Ed. Three Early Modern Utopias. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
Collection of Utopia, New Atlantis, and The Isle of Pines.

Dickstein, Morris. Gates of Eden. New York: Penguin, 1989.
Culture, politics, history.

Gartner, Zsuzsi. Ed. Darwin’s Bastards. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2010.
Short fiction collection of the futuristic dystopian vein; various authors, including someone I took some writing classes with once.

Gray, John. Black Mass. Canada: Random, 2008.
Political Science.

Hallman, J. C. In Utopia. New York: St. Martin’s, 2010.
Nonfiction accounts of utopian thought and experiments in which the author immersed himself. Supercool.

Hodgins, Jack. The Invention of the World. Vancouver: Rondale, 2010.
A novel.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited. Toronto: Vintage, 2007.
A novel republished with a treatise. Classic dystopian fiction premised on Ford’s breakthroughs in assembly line production, and Freud’s breakthroughs in psychoanalytic theory and practice. Revisited is Huxley’s later response to his own work and his defense of individualism.

Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future. London: Verson, 2007.
Subtitle: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Lovely lovely theory.

Kivi, K. Linda and Eileen Delehanty Pearkes. The Inner Green. Nelson: Maa Press, 2005.
Stuff about the Kootenay area, aka, what will become waterfront property should the eagerly-awaited “Big One” hit the coast.

Kulvinskas, Viktoras. Survival into the 21st Century. Woodstock: 21st Century Publications, 1975.
Subtitle: Planetary Healers Manual. In this book you can learn about how to judge yourself in case your poo doesn’t smell like what you ate a few hours ago.

Lawrence, Grant. Adventures in Solitude. Madeira Park: Harbour, 2010.
Non-fiction accounts of living on and rediscovering the Desolation Sound area, with lots of local colour and some historical context too. Awesome, and written by an actual CBC Radio personality with whom I am contemporaneous and also Facebook friends, and I’m unclear as to how we haven’t met in real life.

Le Guin, Ursula K. Always Coming Home. Berkeley: U of California P, 1985.
A novel.

—. The Dispossed. New York: Perennial, 2003.
A novel. I haven’t read these yet but I have totally checked out her blog.

Levitas, Ruth. The Concept of Utopia. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010. Ralahine Utopian Studies, Vol. 3.
Theory. Levitas co-founded the Utopian Studies Society.

Mannheim, Karl. Ideology and Utopia. 1936. San Diego: Harcourt, 1985.

Oliphant, John. Brother XII. Halifax: Twelfth House, 2006.
Just another utopian cult on the West Coast.

Owram, Doug. Born at the Right Time. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997.
In fact this book about the baby boom generation is hugely foundational to my utopia interest, before I thought of it as utopia, and it still is. In fact this blog’s title kind of has to do with that, and one day I’ll write about it.

Pauls, Naomi and Charles Campbell. Eds. The Georgia Straight: What the Hell Happened? Vancouver: Douglas, 1997.
I paid twenty bucks for this awkwardly sized soft-cover book in a used bookstore because that is the kind of cultish book it is, and I guess that also says something about me.

Plato. The Republic. London: Penguin, 1993.
Dialogues on the development of a just society.

Rosenkranz, Patrick. Rand Holmes: The Artist Himself. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2010.
Vancouver and area counterculture comic artist icon known for controversial (read: pornographic) material and frequent contributions to the Georgia Straight. Wicked.

Surtz, Edward, S. J. Ed. Utopia. Thomas More. 1516. New Haven: Yale UP, 1964.
The classic text, founder of the genre and coiner of the term, with More’s additions, as well as some (dated) scholarly apparatuses.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Civil Disobedience. New York: Penguin, 1983.
Musings on individualism and social conscience.

Todd, Douglas. Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia. Vancouver: Ronsdale, 2009.

Vonnegut, Mark. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So. New York: Delacorte, 2010.
A memoir. Sheds some light on The Eden Express (listed below).

—. The Eden Express. New York: Praeger, 1975.
Autobiographical account of the son of Kurt Vonnegut, who comes west with friends in the sixties to found a commune, and while there experiences a major episode of psychosis. This book kind of represents where the whole utopia thing started for me. First edition hardcover, subtitle: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia.

—. The Eden Express. Toronto: Bantam, 1976.
Mass market trade paperback; no subtitle, but a tagline: “The soul-searching odyssey of a young man who came back from madness.” (The marketing and reception history of this book fascinates me. The subtitle changes according to changing social perceptions of mental illness, and while there is zero scholarship on this book, it has been in print in some form, including translations into seven languages besides English and a 2010 Kindle edition, almost continuously since 1975. Mark Vonnegut has written exactly one other book (unless he is writing under aliases I am unaware of), which is also a memoir, which came out in 2010 (listed above), whose tagline reads: Author of The Eden Express. Vonnegut is a pediatrician.

Wild, Paula. Sointula: Island Utopia. Madeira Park: Harbour, 2005.


Compiling this library is an interesting exercise in categorization; everything is context. These are texts from multiple disciplines–literary theory, political science, history, sociology.

Haraway, Donna. The Companion Species Manifesto. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm, 2003.
Subtitle: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Haraway’s work is sometimes called a branch of (third wave, deconstructive) feminist theory; more important is the conception of “naturecultures” and the attention to what is going in the space between things. This manifesto, which emerges from her work with dogs, recognises the enormous availability in our companion species for relationship with the other and otherness.

—. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.
This collection includes an interview with Haraway in which she discusses the response to her earlier work and

—. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Subtitled: The Reinvention of Nature. This collection includes the favoured Cyborg Manifesto.

Jensen, Derrick. Endgame, Volume 11: Resistance. New York: Seven Stories, 2006.
Jensen is one of the founders of the Deep Green Resistance.

Levinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise Than Being. 1974. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1998.

Marshall, Peter. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. Oakland: PM, 2008.

Žižek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times. London: Verson, 2010.
Philosophy. Watch him delivering a talk or debating live or on youtube if you can. His tics are almost unbelievable and also very rhythmic and kind of emotionally tender.


7 Responses to Library

  1. jasminembla says:

    OK, love it!! So inspiring and so finely selected. I wonder if you’d like to have Abrams’s new book, Becoming Animal on there–the phenomenology of animality with a view to ecological salvation via the senses and oral community. I also wonder if you’ve considered Old Mr Foucault’s concept of “heterotopia”? Don’t know tonnes but it sounds deviant and phenomenological indeed–mental and material (thus “real”) spaces of crisis.

    • owl says:

      That means a lot to me; thank you! I haven’t got quite everything up there yet and I’m sure it will keep growing slowly. That Abram book is on its way too. Heterotopia is new to me–I can’t believe I haven’t come across this before! Found an article online–is there anything in particular you have come across? This is very helpful.

  2. jasminembla says:

    1) *Abram (bcjqwyo$E%$^!!)
    2) I encountered the idea of “heterotopia” in this book: I can lend the book to you, if you like.

  3. Never met anyone who read “Born At The Right Time”, aside from the prof who recommended it for a senior paper. One of the best studies ‘ve ever read!

    • owl says:

      I agree. I think I can actually say that it changed my life, in a way. Gave it context, started an inquiry that I’ve not finished with, and in fact keeps growing.

      I notice that you mention Gibson’s Idoru, by the way. Perhaps you can give me a couple of clues about re-reading it. I found myself writing about it in my post, “Bookshelf: defenestrated,” and have since recognised that I should read it from the utopia perspective. When I read (part of) it, I was doing research on monsters and cyborgs.

  4. Ben says:

    Good list. I was once going to write a paper on utopianism, so I did a good bit of digging in my university library. Frank and Fritzie Manuel’s Utopian Thought in the Western World is a great foundation text, along with Levitas. For a more explicitly political spin, I also really enjoyed Russell Jacoby’s Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age. If you want to get your fingers wet in some theology, Paul Tillich and Martin Buber are worth checking out.


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