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Symbolism of geography in Thomas More’s “Utopia”

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Utopia as a highly symbolic island.
    1. A crescent-shaped island.
    2. The characteristics of its geographical situation.
    3. The historical background of the birth of utopias.
  3. Amaurot as the typical town of the utopia.
    1. A city built according to geometrical features.
    2. The importance of the circle and the square in utopian cities.
  4. Utopia as the symbol of the desire of uniformity during the Renaissance.
    1. Amaraut as the matrix of the cities of Utopia.
    2. Positive and negative sides of Utopias.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. Bibliography.

Thomas More was born in 1478 at a time when England was in transition between Feudalism and the early Renaissance. More was a lawyer, a historian, a philosopher and became Henry VIII's chancellor in 1529. When Thomas More refused to convert himself to Protestantism, he was accused of being a traitor and executed in 1535. More was a very learned man as well as a humanist who rediscovered ancient texts such as Plato's Republic, which highly influenced him for the writing of Utopia in 1516. In his work, Thomas More opposes the Society of his time to that of a wonderful and imaginary one: the ideal society of Utopia. The title comes from the Greek ou topos that means ?no where?, which is not a coincidence and reflects More's idea that such a society is impossible to set up. Thomas More's Utopia is divided into two books: in book one; he indirectly criticizes the English society under the Tudor Dynasty and the settlement of the enclosures system which starved peasantry and has therefore dramatic social consequences. Book two contrasts from book one, in the sense that it describes the Utopian society as an egalitarian one based on common property.

[...] In Thomas More's Utopia, the ideal town of Amaurot is: ] surrounded by a thick, high wall, with many towers and bastions. On three sides it is also surrounded by a dry ditch broad and deep and filled with thorn hedges.? (on page 34, paragraph 2). We could say that the circular walls which surround the town are like the maternal womb which is the symbol of protection. On the other hand, the symbol of square is also important. Indeed this shape is the representation of the earth and conveys the idea of stability within perfection (that is to say, the circle) which explains More's choice to make Amaurot a square city within rounded walls as if to picture a stable society inside a perfect city. [...]

[...] The map of Amaurot, capital city of Utopia, is the symbolism of the desire of rationality: In Utopia, nothing is chaotic since urbanism and architecture are supposed to mirror the perfection of its society. Indeed rounded and square shapes are the ideal geometrical forms which make and surround the perfect city. A city built according to geometrical features The geometric organization of space is not pointless. The rationality of urbanism will contribute to frame the organization of the population's life style. [...]

[...] More describes the town of Amaurot like a cell which could be a sample extracted from the island of Utopia. Knowing that all the towns are the same, by studying the structure of one town it is as if he was studying the whole urban structure of the island. Doing this, Thomas More saves space in his narrative, avoiding the description of the fifty four towns. Positive and negative sides of Utopias Uniformity in Thomas More's Utopia makes us think of that of the monastic order. [...]

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