A study of Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
A study of the socialist utopian novel published in 1888.
In 1888, the newspaper editor Edward Bellamy published Looking Backward, a utopian novel set in the year 2000. It soon sold more than a million copies.
Inspired by the socialist and communist literature coming out of Europe, the book imagined what a socialist Boston might look like 100 years into the future, and Edward Bellamy quickly become an icon of the movement. By 1891, his book had inspired 162 “nationalist clubs” (Bellamy’s term for socialism) and Bellamy went on to found The New Nation, a magazine championing his vision.
I can understand why the book caused such a stir. Not only does it provide a vivid depiction of the problems with capitalism in the 19th century, but it imagines how to solve them via his personal vision for a socialist paradise. That’s probably why it inspired a bevy of companion literature, both agreeing with and critiquing his model. The most famous of which is William Morris’ response News from Nowhere (which we’ll be studying next week).
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