Isabella Whitney's “Wyll” has been misrecognized generically because temporal utopias–of which her poem is the first instance–are not supposed to exist in the sixteenth century. Because women had a different relationship to the social and economic disruptions of emergent capitalism that gave birth to the genre in More's Utopia, however, female utopian thought is differently manifested as well. In the “Wyll,” the contradictions attending the moment of transition are embodied in the dissonant form of a poem that, in its first half, describes a city of abundance, and in its second, the dark side of the “same” London for the poor. Proposing that London should be abundant for all its inhabitants through a redistribution of the city's wealth and pleasures, the “Wyll” situates the utopian city in a yet unrealized future that readers, as executors, are enjoined to realize.
Crystal Bartolovich; “Optimism of the Will”: Isabella Whitney and Utopia. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2009; 39 (2): 407–432. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2008-027
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