Exile, Theotopia, and Atopia: Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
Part of the Modernism and … book series (MAND)


The modernist dystopias mentioned so far in this study contain few religious elements, given the fact that the modernist utopias themselves are preponderantly secular and tend to treat religion as just another cultural institution that needs to be reformed and regulated, if not eliminated al together. In other words, theotopias have largely gone out of style in modernist highbrow culture, following a steady historical trend since the second part of the 19th century, already discussed in previous chapters. One of the most remarkable exceptions to this modernist dystopian trend is Thomas Mann’s masterpiece, Joseph and his Brothers. In turn, Bulgakov’s masterpiece of the 1930s appears to follow the general dystopian trend, but it actually reveals itself to be a theotopia in dystopian disguise. Both novels explore the notion of atopia, but along somewhat different lines: whereas in Joseph and His Brothers, atopia largely concerns the theotopian bridges over the existential void, in Bulgakov’s narrative it also concerns the role of art and the artist in creating what Aldous Huxley would call an alternative, “sane” or healthy society.


Psychiatric Ward Liminal Space Evening Star Healthy Society Black Magic 
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  1. 1.
    Thomas Mann (2005), Joseph and His Brothers: The Stories of Jacob, Young Joseph, Joseph in Egypt, Joseph the Provider, translated by John E. Woods, New York: Everyman’s Library, p. 10. Subsequent citations refer to this edition.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, translated from the Russian by Michael Glenny, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, p. 135. Further page references are to this edition.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mihai I. Spariosu 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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