Риторика власти в романах-утопиях Сэмюэла Батлера и Эдварда Беллами
Authors: Максим Шадурский
Number of views: 621
Rhetoric is capable of relating the state of the world. Moreover, when used for a purpose, it can create a model world of its own, appeal to the imagination, and initiate action. As an arguably rhetorical genre utopia charts and explores ways in which the world is subject to imaginary change. This article brings into focus two utopian novels of the late nineteenth century – “Erewhon” (1872) by Samuel Butler and “Looking Backward”, 2000-1887 (1888) by Edward Bellamy. These novels are examined in juxtaposition in order to give an insight into the (ab)use of rhetoric in both the fictional realm of utopia and beyond.
The realization of the rhetoric of power is traceable to the descriptive lexical units the two writers employ. The protagonist of Butler’s novel undertakes an assiduous journey into a world of anagrams and antipodes, whose nature is defined as hypothetical. Hypothetics, according to Butler, rests on a set of «utterly strange and impossible contingencies», aimed at educating the mind’s flair for inconsistency and evasion. The fictional world of Bellamy’s novel is, on the contrary, coherent and logical. The aspects of this fictional world are dubbed prodigious on the grounds that even «humanity’s ancient dream of liberty, equality, fraternity at last was realized». The protagonist of Bellamy’s novels is transported in his sleep to a future only slightly reminiscent of contemporary Boston. Books available in these allegedly perfect societies contain a wealth of information according to which their social ideal functions. Butler identifies «an unfair and exaggerated representation of life and things» in rhetorical postulates. Julian West, in turn, discovers a well of amazement in the absence of social incongruities in the books of the future because the latter not only condense the memory of the past, which is successfully obliterated in Erewhon, but also overshadow history from the height of the current moment. The rhetoric of power becomes manifest in the mechanism of orchestrating public opinion by means of treatises and sermons. In “Erewhon”, public opinion is affected by local prophets and philosophers whose rhetoric, embodied in books, results in damaging action. Bellamy attributes the role of ideological didactics to religion, which means that the preacher’s rhetoric ranks as an indisputable moral authority.
The fictional worlds of Butler and Bellamy demonstrate an understanding of the rhetoric of power as a constructive and/or latently destructive force. Where Butler’s Erewhon exposes the paradoxical potentialities of rhetoric, Bellamy sanctifies rhetoric, refusing to recognize the hidden antipodes reposed in it. But there is more to rhetoric and to its potentialities. Not only does the rhetoric of power have the capacity to describe the state of the world or create a fictional world, but it can also ruin this world and along with it, the Universal creation.