The Two Utopias of Louis-Sébastien Mercier Cover Image

Les deux utopies de Louis-Sébastien Mercier
The Two Utopias of Louis-Sébastien Mercier

Author(s): Radu Toderici
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Fundatia Culturala Echinox
Keywords: Utopia; Uchronia; French Enlightenment; L.-S. Mercier; Progress; Political Thought.

Summary/Abstract: Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s uchronia, The Year 2440 (L’an deux mille quatre cent quadrant), first published in 1771, is widely regarded today as one of the first examples of a utopian narrative which embodies the Enlightenment notion of progress. As such, Mercier’s text has had a tremendous influence on the development of science-fiction literature, establishing some of the conventions of the genre. However, in this paper, we argue that the text in itself is highly ambivalent in terms of the shape of the future society Mercier depicts. Accordingly, one can read it today as an idealized utopia or as a predecessor of some of the dystopias of the 20th century. Furthermore, the revised edition of the text, published in 1786, brought to light even clearer the ambiguities of Mercier’s political vision. The Year 2440 was, in this regard, not only embodying certain ideals of the French Enlightenment, but also manifesting a crisis of the utopian genre in the late 18th century.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 26
  • Page Range: 242-250
  • Page Count: 9
  • Language: French