Growing Old in Utopia
From Age to Otherness in American Literary Utopias
Utopian Studies and Age Studies, as disciplines, have traditionally had little to do with one another despite a great deal of shared scholarly “territory.” This essay examines one such nexus of shared territory: the changing representa-tion of age as a component of social formation in American utopian fictions of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. A perceptible shift in Anglophone utopian depictions of aging can be identified in the approximate years 1890-1914, before which aging was largely figured as a non-othering, normative characteristic, and after which aging became a particularlizing and potentially othering feature of identity. Using a “stage” vs. “state” theoretical approach modeled on the work of Andrea Charise, the analysis here focuses on the brief interim where narrative figurations of age became noticeably unstable in utopian literature, fluctuating between othering and non-othering configurations (sometimes both simultaneously) in well-known American utopias such as Ignatius Donnelly’s Caesar’s Column (1890), Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (1912), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915).
Aries, Phillippe. Western Attitudes toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present. Trans. Patricia M Ranum. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974.
Augusto Riva, Michele, Marta Benedetti, and Giancarlo Cesana. “Pandemic Fear and Literature: Observations from Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 20.10 (2014): 1753-57. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Barry, John M. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. New York: Viking, 2004.
Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward: 2000-1887. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1888. Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. “Catastrophic Utopia: The Feminine as Allegory of the Modern.” Representations 14, The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (1986): 220-29. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Charise, Andrea. “‘The Tyranny of Age’: Godwin’s St. Leon and the Nineteenth- Century Longevity Narrative.” ELH 79.4 (2012): 905-33. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Craciun, Catrinel. “Successful Aging—Utopia or the Result of Lifelong Learning? Meaning and Representations of Ageing in Romanian Elderly.” Ageing International 37.4 (2012): 373-85. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
Domingo, Andreu. “Demodystopias: Prospects of Demographic Hell.” Population & Development Review 34.4 (2008): 725-45. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Caesar’s Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century. Originally Chicago: F.J. Schulte and Company, 1890. Project Gutenberg ePub edition, 2004. Web. 15 Jun 2016.
Featherstone, Mike, and Andrew Wernick. “Introduction.” Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life. London: Routledge, 1995.
Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” Trans. David McLintock. The Uncanny. London: Penguin Classics, 2003. 123-61.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. Rpt. From The Forerunner, 1909-1916. Herland and Related Writings. New York: Broadview, 2013.
Gomel, Elana. “The Plague of Utopias: Pestilence and the Apocalyptic Body.” Twentieth Century Literature 46.4, Literature and Apocalypse (2000): 405-33. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Gulette, Margaret Morganroth. Aged by Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004.
Groys, Boris, Elena Sorokina, and Emily Speers Mears. “The Immortal Bodies.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics.53/54 (2008): 345-9. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Hadomi, Leah. “Islands of the Living: Death and Dying in Utopian Fiction.” Utopian Studies 6.1 (1995): 85-101. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial, 1932.
Heath, Kay. “In the Eye of the Beholder: Victorian Age Construction and the Specular Self.” Victorian Literature and Culture 34.1 (2006): 27-45. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Kaes, Anton. Shell Shock Cinema. Princeton and Harvard: Princeton UP, 2009.
Kessler, Carol Farley. “Bibliography of Utopian Fiction by United States Women 1836-1988.” Utopian Studies 1.1 (1990): 1-58. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Lane, Mary E. Bradley. Mizora: A Prophecy: A Mms. Found Among the Private Papers of Princess Vera Zarovitch: Being a True and Faithful Account of her Journey to the Interior of the Earth, with a Careful Description of the Country and its Inhabitants, their Customs, Manners, and Government. New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1890. Blackmask Online eBook edition (PDF), 2007. Web. 15 Jun 2016.
London, Jack. The Scarlet Plague. New York: Macmillan, 1912.
Negley, Glenn Robert. Utopian Literature: A Bibliography with a Supplementary Listing of Works Influential in Utopian Thought. Lawrence: Regents P of Kansas, 1977. Raney, David. “No Ties Except those of Blood: Class, Race, and Jack London’s American Plague.” Papers on Language & Literature 39.4 (2003): 390-435. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Roemer, Kenneth M. The Obsolete Necessity: America in Utopian Writings 1888-1900. Kent: Kent State UP, 1976.
Rubin, Isadore. “The ‘Sexless Older Years’”—A Socially Harmful Stereotype.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 376 (1968): 86-95. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Silverstein, Merril, and Jeffrey D. Long. “Trajectories of Grandparents’ Perceived Solidarity with Adult Grandchildren: A Growth Curve Analysis Over 23 Years.” Journal of Marriage and Family 60.4 (1998): 912-23. JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Sargent, Lyman Tower. British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975: An Annotated Bibliography. Torndike: G. K. Hall & Co. 1978.
Sargent, Lyman. “The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited.” Utopian Studies. 5.1 (1994): 1-37. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Dec 2014.
Symmes, John Cleves Jr. Symzonia: Voyage of Discovery by Captain Adam Seaborn. New York: J. Seymour, 1820. Sacred Texts. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Woodward, Kathleen. “Instant Repulsion: Decrepitude, the Mirror Stage, and the Literary Imagination.” Kenyon Review 5.4 (1983): 43-66. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov 2014.
Woodward, Kathleen. “Introduction.” Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999: i-xxix.
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
From issue 6 (2022) onward, the journal uses the CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 license. The authors retain their copyright. For articles published in previous issues (1,2,3,4 and 5) the authors retain their copyright to their articles. Readers can download, read, and link to the articles published in issues 1-5, but they cannot republish these articles. Authors can upload them in their institutional repositories.