Utopian Poetics

Writing Utopia Now

  • Sally-Shakti Willow (University of Westminster)


Writing Utopia Now is a multi-modal manifesto interrogating the category of the utopian in modern and contemporary literature.  Building upon the utopian philosophy of Ernst Bloch (1885 – 1977) and drawing upon my current doctoral research, I propose ‘utopian poetics’ as a literary gesture towards the utopian, whereby reader and writer may enter into an equal and non-oppressive relationship with one another via the text.  Rather than a description of, or proposal for, a better world – fraught with the limitations of language and the imposition of one person’s perspective on how that better world might look – utopian poetics offers the possibility of a performance, or experience, of non-alienated subjectivity through the text’s formal processes.  Many modern and contemporary literary texts employ formal strategies, such as fragmentation, proliferation and attention to language’s materiality, to invite readers into the process of meaning construction.  Thus, the text becomes a site of utopian potential, both through its proliferation of possibilities and through its openness to the equal subjectivities of reader and writer.  


In Bloch’s lifelong engagement with the utopian he frequently employed spiritual vocabulary to explain the utopian process.  He describes the utopian potential of non-alienated subjectivity through the aesthetic object as the ‘ultimate self-encounter’, or, in Sanskrit, tat twam asi (‘there you are’).  In my own life, I have experienced a striking similarity between the effects of utopian poetics in a literary text and the spiritual practices of yoga and meditation.  In this manifesto I include reflections on that similarity and suggest ways in which a spiritual practice can be interpreted as a performance of the utopian possibility of non-alienated subjectivity.

Keywords: Utopia, Contemporary literature, Poetry, Poetics, Utopian poetics

How to Cite:

Willow, S., (2019) “Writing Utopia Now”, Studies in Arts and Humanities 5(1), 40-48. doi: https://doi.org/10.18193/sah.v5i1.161

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Published on
30 Apr 2019
Peer Reviewed