In informal usage a utopia is a paradise, a perfect place, an ideal society. People who reflect on the history of literary representations of utopias starting with Plato's Republic, and on the many failed attempts to put them into practice, will think of the word in the more precise sense of a conception of a perfect place before which real human arrangements inevitably fall short. Readers of the work that coined the term, Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), will find a still sharper distinction between the ideal and the real. The etymological roots of More's word suggest that Utopia is both a "good place" and "no place," simultaneously ideal and nonexistent. Ithaca uses the word in this third, most stringent sense, directing readers to More's fiction by capitalizing it. The allusion implicitly compares the transatlantic voyage described in More's fiction to the traditional Christian conceit that God, and the completion of humanity, can be found on the far side of the stars.

John Hunt 2022

Woodcut illustration for 1516 edition of Thomas More's Utopia. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Similar illustration used in the 1518 edition, by Ambrosius Holbein.
Source: www.britannica.com.