A Musing: News from Nowhere

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Would you like to live in a beautiful, lush country where money and government has been abolished, everyone has enough, work is pleasurable, art and artisanship is a guiding star, and you could follow your bliss? Ah, I feel my shoulders lowering just writing that sentence. But alas, it’s just a dream/vision from William Morris’s News from Nowhere.

This is not a book where you will find loads of literary style, language play, or structural acrobatics — it’s a didactic story about the changes Morris imagined if socialism was allowed to take root in England. You can call it a bedtime story for budding adult Socialists, perhaps? 😉 Some parts are a little clunky, and in others the speechifying is shoveled on, but that’s par for the course — Morris originally published this in serial form in the Commonweal, his socialist newspaper, which was created to spread the word of socialism and win new followers.

Of course my little Neo-Marxist heart leapt at these ideas and said, “Yes, yes! Work, life, and art shouldn’t be separate!” and “Imagine a world where we all had what we needed, no 99%/1% business!” I laughed at Morris’s cleverness (Parliament has been transformed into a  dung market!). I swooned over the aesthetic “useful, beautiful” -ness of the world he created. I could actually smell the green spaces and clean rivers and hay in his passages about nature. Nice. I scratched my head a little about how he handled crime,  and tittered over how much Willie liked thee ladies (ya old goat)!

It also made me a little sad; we are not any closer to Morris’s socialist utopia than he was. But as he references in the title, utopia  is a word coined by Thomas More from the Greek ou-topos meaning no-place or nowhere. Can we ever create the world we want? Can we ever stop trying?

(image: KELSMSCOTT PRESS edition of News from Nowhere.  Woodcut frontispiece, title page, and initials. gilt-lettered vellum with green cloth ties, one of 300 copies. Makes we want to FAINT! so beautiful)

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4 comments

  1. noir-realism

    Someday you’ll have to take the time to read Ernst Bloch whose trilogy on Hope and Utopia covers every aspect of the utopian worlds of hope… in fact, a good place to start might be the new intro to his work by Slavoj Zizek and others… The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia.

    • jackiemania

      I’ll take you up on that. I just read The Concept of Utopia by Ruth Levitas and there was tons of Bloch in the William Morris chapter. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure how/where to dive in. Thanks!

      • noir-realism

        Oh, yea, Levitas and a few others have a book of essays on critical dystopias as well! What’s funny is that just after that book one saw the beginnings of the new publishing category of YA Youth Dystopian fiction suddenly rise out of nowhere … 🙂

        Of course now it’s a category that one wishes would have had less of an impact sense a lot of it is pure trash and not only unreal and irrealist, but not even connected to actual situations in the third world of the excluded… most of it seems very middle-class oriented with fears of young white kids rather than much of the actual real world problems outside that mind-set. Too bad…

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