Utopian Realism

McAuliffe, Sam. 2022. Utopian Realism. In: Peter Marks; Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor and Fátima Vieira, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 219-230. ISBN 9783030886547 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In The Principle of Hope Ernst Bloch makes use of a paradoxical conceptual arrangement, juxtaposing categories that tend to be treated as if they were mutually exclusive: utopia, on the one hand, and realism, on the other. “Realism in art,” he writes, “is not a descriptive or explicative stocktaking. Rather, it holds up a mirror of immanent anticipation in an activating way. It is tendentious, Utopian realism.” Deployed in a utopian context the referential function of the realist text is reconfigured. It makes reference to reality not in its given state but in view of its “future-laden properties.” What then are the structural features of a textual practice shaped in accordance with this principle? On what set of discursive operations does it rest? And how does it achieve this “activation,” over and above mere depiction? These questions will also be broached in relation to Elias Canetti’s ‘Realism and New Reality,’ a text which stages its own encounter between the two main categories at stake here.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):



utopia, realism, genre, bloch, canetti, future, apocalypse, eschatology

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


16 March 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Apr 2022 10:01

Last Modified:

13 Apr 2022 09:52



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