Utopia Limited: Episode 1

In this inaugural episode of Utopia Limited we explore the origins of Utopian literature and the necessary "myth of progress" which led to the first dystopian literature.  A reader has pointed out an error:  Kurt Vonnegut wrote Harrison Bergeron.

Original Air Date: May 5, 2020
Show Run Time: 36 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner

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Utopia Limited℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2020. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.


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8 Responses

  1. Craig Klampe says:

    Harrison Bergeron? That was Vonnegut.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks for the needed correction. It is one of the many mistakes I habitually make, no matter how many times I correct myself or am corrected by others. In a written essay, I usually correct them, but in a conversation based only on notes, the mind wanders back to its engrained errors. My piano teacher, when my bad playing exasperated him, would accuse me of not practicing. “But, Professor Brewsaugh,”I would exclaimed, “I did practice!” He then, after rapping my knuckles with an engine of torture he kept with him, he would explain that by practicing a piece wrong, I was simply engraining my errors. I had many occasions to observe the same thing of Latin students who wanted to explain to me why they made a mistake. Even talking about it, I warned them, would further imprint it.

    Why do I always attribute the story to Heinlein whom I mainly detest? I suppose it is because I detest Vonnegut far more. Thanks again.

  3. Raymond Olson says:

    An excellent review of books and movements I’ve informally studied since my teens. One tiny cavil: Robert Owen was not a Quaker.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    True, Ray. This is another mistaken idée fixe of mine that goes back to my teens when I read of the famous conversation, perhaps on a train, when Owen remarked that all the world is queer but me and thee, and even thou are a little queer. In fact, as we know, Owen spent most of his life as an Enlightened enemy of religion, along the lines of Tom Paine, before falling from the dignity of atheism into the humiliating degradation of spiritualism. With the bad luck that characterized most of his dealings outside business, he met the ghost of Ben Franklin. I wasted time studying his attempts to form utopian colonies with predictable results, but if asked I’ll probably call him a Quaker the next time I mention him.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I hope you appreciate the restraint fortitude with which I quoted Owen without making a Truman Capote joke!

  6. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Next podcast in this series will be dedicated to Capek.

  7. Raymond Olson says:

    Thanks for jogging my memory further about Owen. Quakers can still be heard murmuring favorable opinions of him, perhaps because of nostalgia for the good old days of the proprietorship, when there was a strong leader who let them get on with the business of verifying their blessedness by making money. Quakers today should remember that those enterprising forebears deserted almost to a man and became Episcopalians.

    Capek! My man, and one of the great discoveries I made while on staff at Booklist. Of course, I already knew of him but hadn’t read more than R.U.R. before the spate of new and reissued translations emerged in the ’90s. I still have many of his books to read, which is a consolation to my dotage.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    When I was in Prague, I visited his grave. Czech colleagues asked why I didn’t visit the grave of the great Czech writer Kafka. I answered that I liked Kafka, but he wasn’t a Czech Catholic but a German Jew who wrote in German, while Capek was a humane and brilliant writer, possessed of the famous Czech irony, but an agrarian sensibility. Leopold T loved the Gardener’s Year and I was late in discovering the rural novels–hard scrabble pastoral at its best.