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Festival of Ideas

Utopia and the American Dream Sarah Churchwell

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The idea of utopia has always been part of the American dream – from the first Puritan settlements and the ‘city on the hill’, through Thoreau’s Walden, the sixties counterculture and to the conservative utopian dreams of today.

America was also the country where the Romantic poets – working in the South West of England in the 1790s – had the dream of a utopian community on the banks of the Susquehanna in Philadelphia where an egalitarian community would live, learn and work. Nowhere is this search for utopia more clear than in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, where each character is searching for their own version of utopia.

Sarah Churchwell, author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, reflects on Gatsby, the American dream and the endless search for utopia.

This event was part of the annual Coleridge Series, inspired by Coleridge’s wide-ranging and radical lectures in Bristol in the 1790s. It was also linked to the 2016 Utopia project.

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