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Bellemare, Alex, «Mundus est fabula. L’imaginaire géographique dans la fiction utopique (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles)», Montréal et Paris, Université de Montréal et Université Sorbonne nouvelle-Paris 3, thèse de doctorat en cotutelle, septembre 2017, xiii/572 p. Dir. : Ugo Dionne (Université de Montréal) et Jean-Paul Sermain (Université Paris 3-Sorbonne nouvelle). URL : <>.

Why were utopian fictions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries written in the form of a first person imaginary travel? Most commentators study utopian literature as being a concept; the form it adopts and the representations it deploys are considered, at best, incidental. Our hypothesis is quite different: these texts should interest the historian of representations precisely because they present themselves in the form of a narrative in which the subjectivity of the narrator is problematic. By their construction mixing factual and fictional elements, these texts can be read in the double perspective of the “world as fable” and the “fable as world”. We will study this duality through the notion of geographical imagination: the texts we analyze address the links between travel and language, territory and society, mobility and subjectivity. The geographical imagination that we will interpret is a process that informs the perception of the world and the possibility of its representation. This doctoral thesis is divided in two parts: we will investigate depictions of space and spatial practices which are both mediations between the utopian traveler and the places he crosses.

This dissertation studies the geographical imagination in utopian fiction through five modes of semiotization of space. Firstly, we will question the fabric of the imaginary worlds by theorizing what we call the “utopian pact” (naming). Secondly, we will explore the practice of description in a rhetorical and poetic point of view: how can we describe something that isn’t real (describing)? Thirdly, we will focus on the performative role of space and place, and how power shapes practices, behaviours and social structures (constructing). Fourthly, we will take a critic look at a number of emblematic spaces, in which culture, memory and power are materialized (territorialize). Finally, we will discuss how the utopian traveler apprehends space: the representation of the body, the practice of mobility and the use of literary memory are all ways of putting a distance between the world and its experience (imagining). It is this “geographical” moment in the history of utopian fiction that this dissertation wants to explore.

Keywords : Space • Geographical imagination • Utopian fictions in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries • Imaginary voyages • History of representations

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