Carter Johnke

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lisa Ann Robertson


This thesis offers a way of reading texts for their utopian aims, a term I use to analyze utopian themes and ideas in a text while keeping the focus on practicality. Reading a text for its utopian aims discovers what a text hopes for but always reflects on how those hopes serve the here and now of the author and the reader. The idealistic conclusions of utopian thinking, the utopian visions, only play a role in the utopian aim. This project does not promote the ultimate or extreme ends of utopian visions; instead, it analyzes the educational effects of entertaining those visions. Through its hopes, a text contains a utopian energy that has practical results in the present moment. I argue that texts work like teachers, and the naturally hopeful nature of teaching influences that teaching work. Therefore, this thesis claims that we should read texts like they have something to teach us and that what we learn can be used for improvements in the present moment. This learning and progress connects to and complements utopian thinking. The first chapter of this thesis analyzes Sarah Scott’s didactic utopian novel, Millenium Hall (1762), and establishes the foundation for reading for practical utopian aims. I argue that Scott develops a utopian pedagogy that connects abstract, philosophical principles necessary for personal and social moral development with practical illustrations and actions. Scott’s pedagogy is a tour of the utopia of Millenium Hall, which importantly has positive connections to and influences on the exterior world. Scott extends the teaching work of the tour directly to every reader of the text. This analysis informs the method of reading for utopian aims, which is then used for “taking a tour” of the hopes and utopian thinking of William Wordsworth’s Prelude (1850) and Henry David Throeau’s Walden (1854). The second and third chapters examine these texts' utopian and educational thinking, respectively. This analysis reveals what these texts were hopeful for and why they were hopeful, and it also informs and illustrates the practical here-and-now element of utopian aims.

Subject Categories

Education | English Language and Literature


Education, Henry David Thoreau, Hope, Sarah Scott, Utopia, William Wordsworth

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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