Resources for a journey of hope: Raymond Williams on utopia and science fiction

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Raymond Williams had an enduring interest in science fiction, an interest attested to: first, by two articles specifically addressed to the genre, both of which were eventually published in the journal Science Fiction Studies; second, by a wide range of reference in more familiar texts, such as Culture and Society, The Long Revolution, George Orwell and The Country and the City; and third, by his two ‘future novels’, The Volunteers and The Fight for Manod, the first clearly science-fictional in character, the latter less so. This article will summarise this work, and will also explore how some of Williams’s more general key theoretical concepts – especially structure of feeling and selective tradition – can be applied to the genre. Finally, it will argue that the ‘sociological’ turn, by which Williams sought to substitute description and explanation for judgement and canonisation as the central purposes of analysis, represents a more productive approach to science fiction studies than the kind of prescriptive criticism deployed by other avowedly ‘neo-Marxist’ works, such as Darko Suvin’s Metamorphoses of Science Fiction and Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-430
Number of pages16
JournalCultural Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Raymond Williams
  • science fiction
  • science fiction studies
  • utopia
  • utopian
  • dystopia
  • dystopian
  • cultural materialism
  • literature
  • sociology
  • sociology of literature

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