Irish Postcolonial Criticism and the Utopian Impulse



The idioms and the methodologies of ‘Utopia’ have always been explicit and implicit both in projects of colonial acquisition and expansion, and in the differential projects of anticolonial theory and practice. Yet there has never been an adequate commerce of ideas established between the respective contemporary fields of utopian studies and postcolonial studies. However, in a recent essay in Textual Practice the postcolonial scholar, Bill Ashcroft, attempted to bridge the theoretical hiatus between the two fields.2 In ‘Critical Utopias’ Ashcroft essentially provides a literary-critical mapping of the modalities through which the utopian has figured in the literary art of Anglophone colonial, anti-colonial and postcolonial crucibles. Ashcroft’s summary utopian/postcolonial survey takes its theoretical impetus, naturally enough, from a conversation between Ernst Bloch and Theodor Adorno in 1964, in which Adorno adumbrates the repressed knowledge that each individual harbours of a possible Utopia — we know that a better possible world exists, but we are ideologically persuaded that the possible is actually the impossible (Bloch, 1989: 4). In addition to foundational thinkers such as Bloch and Adorno, Ashcroft also enlists other theorists of the utopian, including Herbert Marcuse and Fredric Jameson. The survey is not confined to theoretical utopias, however, as Ashcroft subsequently traverses a variety of historical times and spaces in divining traces of literary utopian dynamism in colonial contexts.


Irish Society Postcolonial Theory Irish Culture Revival Period Postcolonial Study 
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© Eóin Flannery 2009

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