The two literary genres to which the title of Jason H. Pearl's new book, Utopian Geographies and the Early English Novel, refers are both unusually beset by problems of definition. Utopian writers claim the right to reimagine society from the ground up—enacting what Machiavelli called “a return to first principles”—and, in the process, the right to reconceive the categories and techniques of their generic predecessors. The novel, always a capacious if not an amorphous genre, is especially difficult to define in its earliest versions, particularly in those precursors that can only be seen as part of a genre at all in the light of retrospect. If problems of definition plague even research on the most canonical examples of each genre, they are inescapable in studies that attempt to shift traditional boundaries of period and style. Circularities tend to arise immediately: the...

You do not currently have access to this content.