by Frances Bartkowski
Image linked from:
In so many utopian analytic texts, the tone is one of a jaded scholar, one who relies heavily in Suvin’s famous science fiction description of “cognitive estrangement”. Estrangement is surely at the heart of utopian texts, and yet, Frances Bartkowski takes Suvin’s description and pairs it with a more optimistic view, an echo of Karen Horney’s tone in Feminist Psychology.
Bartkowski’s definition of utopia is taken from William Morris’s News from Nowhere, as she believes “utopia is anywhere but here and now. It is alternatively the good place (eutopos) and no place (outopos) […] which could also be anywhere” (4). Her view of utopia is unique, but succinct.
As the text is named Feminist Utopias, Bartkowski delves into feminism: “Feminism has done much to bring together the theoretical differences and similarities of the struggles among classes and between sexes” (13). She is leading the reader to her conclusion, her conclusion being that utopian and feminist theory have deeper ties than most people realize, as utopian theory strives to better the human condition overall, much like feminism.
Bartkowski goes further in her comparison, stating utopian theory and feminist theory to be nearly inseparable, if not identical. What she is really saying is feminist theory is the ideal (the utopian ideal) as it encompasses many utopian elements and more in its definition. Of non-feminist utopians, Bartkowski summarizes the women in the stories, and how the creators of the utopias merely “made a place for women only to mask oppression while imagining patriarchal utopias” (14). Several science fiction and utopian writers are mentioned throughout the text, like Suvin, Russ, Butler, Bloch, Bellamy, and more. The chapters are made up of two feminist utopian works Bartkowski contrasts, comparisons, and analyzes. She includes novels such as The Female Man, Woman on the Edge of Time, and Herland.
Bartkowski, Frances. Feminist Utopias. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1989. Print.