Chapter: English Literature in the Sixteenth Century
Yesterday I gave Thomas More a lot of crap. It's pretty well-deserved, mind you, but now I have to give him props. Even though the land of Utopia, as described by More, would be a horrible place to live, he actually develops it in prose rather well. I mean, the second part of the story is almost Tolkienesque in its world-building. He describes the island of Utopia with great detail, so that its geography is incredibly easy to imagine. Furthermore, the way he details how the cities and farmland are laid out, how the island's defenses are setup, etc, are all very imaginative and well constructed. Even the total crackpot society he's devised in the story is very logically detailed and explained, so even though the lives these people are living are insane, you know exactly how and why they work.
Which is to say, if this was the first chapter of a fantasy novel, I'd totally buy it. But it's not, so screw 'em.
I will, however, give him additional props: the word "utopia" has come to mean, over the course of a few hundred years, "a perfect society." It's just a regular word you'd find in the dictionary, and is in the common vernacular of most people. It is also a word More invented. Say what you will, but few people can claim to have invented a word that's used not just in Latin or English, but in nearly every language on the planet. English, Portuguese, whatever - the word "utopia" means the same in every tongue, and More just pulled it out of his ass in 1515. Pretty damn impressive, when you think about it. But I try not to.
Lit Brick is a comic started by Jodie Troutman in an effort to read the entire Norton Anthology of English Literature. Having eventually succeeded in that goal, it now features comics about all manner of random literature. For more of Jodie's work, visit longtalljodie.com!