Growing Old in Utopia

From Age to Otherness in American Literary Utopias


  • Mark R. Brand Northeastern Illinois University and Wilbur Wright College



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).

Author Biography

Mark R. Brand, Northeastern Illinois University and Wilbur Wright College

is Lecturer of English at Northeastern Illinois University and Wilbur Wright College, where he teaches research writing. He completed a PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2017, and his criti- cal work focuses on the intersections of age and utopian studies in American fiction. He is a Chicago-based author and editor whose novels and collec- tions include Long Live Us (2013), The Damnation of Memory (2012), Life After Sleep (2011), and Thank You, Death Robot (Ed., 2009). His current book proj- ect examines contemporary depictions of parents and parenting in popular fiction. Readers may write to Mark Brand at


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How to Cite

Brand, M. R. “Growing Old in Utopia: From Age to Otherness in American Literary Utopias”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 3, Jan. 2018, pp. 163-87, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v3i.130159.