Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gorman, David J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


This study integrates the literature and correspondence of such Inklings authors as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien into the arc of Commonwealth utopian and dystopian literature of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because utopian authors such as Samuel Butler, William Morris, and H. G. Wells employ the utopian form pioneered by Thomas More but largely abandon More’s Augustinian Catholic view of human nature, their works frequently fail to address the impediments to justice and equity that More satirically addresses in Utopia. Thus, the speculative fiction of later Augustinian Christian authors such as Lewis and Tolkien complements the better-known dystopian fiction of canonical dystopian authors such as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley in analyzing the complicating factors of utopia and the tendency toward dystopian elements in earlier utopian literature. In turn, later dystopian fiction by authors such as Anthony Burgess and Margaret Atwood complements elements of earlier literature in underscoring the danger of religious rhetoric underlying complicity with authoritarian regimes or rationalizing authoritarianism itself.

Chapter 1 establishes theory and terminology and examines Thomas More’s prototypical Utopia as a model for subsequent literature. Chapter 2 focuses on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century utopias and utopian satires such as Butler’s Erewhon, Morris’s News from Nowhere, and Wells’s A Modern Utopia. Chapter 3 examines the shift from early modernist utopianism to later modernist satire and dystopia in the wake of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the establishment of a socialist world power in Soviet Russia, and World War II, focusing on Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World. Chapter 4 focuses on Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings’ alternative reactions to both the utopian optimism of Morris and Wells and to the dystopias of Orwell and Huxley. In Chapter 5, the emphasis shifts to religious complicity with authoritarianism and fundamentalist religious theocracy as a potential basis for totalitarianism in British dystopian satire, focusing on Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale along with arguments against theocracy in the Inklings’ literary criticism.


231 pages




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