Looking Backwards: Imagining Utopia in the Middle Ages


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project disputes the scholarly commonplace that Thomas More invented utopia as a concept. This study argues that there was a complex tradition of medieval precursors to More's idea that have so far been overlooked by scholars. In addition, it offers a theory of medieval utopia that departs from current theory derived from More's work. Drawing on recent work in the history of geography and cartography, this project delineates utopian trajectories in medieval texts leading up to More's Utopia. Finally, this project also suggests that Thomas More's text was engaged with a particular medieval legacy extending back to William Langland's Piers Plowman.