Thursday, January 13, 2011

Utopia by Sir Thomas More

Utopia (in full: Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia) is a work of fiction by Thomas More published in 1516. English translations of the title include A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia (literal) and A Fruitful and Pleasant Work of the Best State of a Public Weal, and of the New Isle Called Utopia (traditional).[1] (See "title" below.) The book, written in Latin, is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs.

Background on Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More (pronounced /ˈmɔr/; February 7, 1478[1] – July 6, 1535), also known as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important counsellor to Henry VIII of England and for three years toward the end of his life he was Lord Chancellor. He is also recognised as a saint within the Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion.[2] He was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation and of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.

More coined the word "utopia" - a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He opposed the king's separation from the papal church and denied that the king was the Supreme Head of the Church of England, a status the king had been given by a compliant parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged the power of the Pope and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535 he was tried and executed for treason by beheading. More was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1886 and canonised, with John Fisher, in 1935. In 1980, he was added to the Church of England's calendar of saints.

Articles from Luminarium

Links to Online Texts

Utopia at Oregon State

Utopia at Online Literature

Utopia at Project Gutenberg

Study Notes and Guides for Utopia

Sparknotes for Utopia

Study Guide with Detailed Information

Schedule of Readings

This is a fairly short book, and could be read in a few weeks (depending on your own schedule). I would suggest reading it at your leisure and taking the time to think about what Sir Thomas More might be suggesting in this story. You might want to spend a little time and review some British History so that you can understand better why this book is so important. Thomas More lived during the reign of Henry the VIII. It was his stand against Henry's wish to divorce that eventually led to More's execution (a must see -- watch Paul Scofield's dramatization of More in the movie, "A Man for All Seasons").