The first version of this bibliography was published in 1979 as British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975: An Annotated Bibliography and contained an extensive list of secondary materials on utopian literature. Because it had grown so much that it had become unusable in printed form without an index, and I could think of no adequate way of indexing it, I dropped the secondary lists in the second version, published in 1989 as British and American Utopian Literature, 1516-1985: An Annotated, Chronological Bibliography. In addition to the two versions of the bibliography, I published bibliographies of utopian literature in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

This much expanded third version has required a title change because it includes much more than just British and American literature. In the earlier versions there were a few titles from other countries, but since the 1989 version, I have done extensive research in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand and searched for material from English-speaking African countries and English-language material from South Africa and South Asia, particularly India.

All three versions begin with the conventional date of 1516 when Thomas More published what we now think of as his Utopia, which gave the genre its name. There were works published before 1516 that can reasonably be called utopias, but More, even though he wrote the Utopia in Latin with no English version before 1557, gave rise to a tradition in both English and other languages, and while any history of utopianism should start earlier than 1516, a bibliography of the tradition in English must start then.

I compiled the first version because when I started doing serious research on utopian literature, I discovered that there was no minimally adequate bibliography and no good consideration of definition that would make it possible to set the parameters for such a bibliography. Unknown to me, others were also concerned with these problems. In 1976 Kenneth M. Roemer published The Obsolete Necessity: America in Utopian Writings, 1888-1900 containing a substantial bibliography, in 1978 Glenn Negley published Utopian Literature: A Bibliography with A Supplementary Listing of Works Influential in Utopian Thought, and in 1984 Arthur O. Lewis published Utopian Literature in The Pennsylvania State University Libraries: A Selected Bibliography. On the definitional side, in 1973 Darko Suvin published “Defining the Literary Genre of Utopia: Some Historical Semantics, Some Genology, A Proposal and A Plea.”

Since then I have written a number of essays exploring different aspects of definitional issues, culminating in “The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited” in 1994, Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction (2010), “Theorizing Utopia/Utopianism in the Twenty-First Century” (2012), “Theorizing Intentional Community in the Twenty-First Century” (2012). My research taught me that there are variations in the way that utopias are presented in different countries and led me to look for utopias for ways that cultures may have pushed the boundaries of my definitions, which, I concluded, had to be somewhat porous.[1]

At the same time it is essential to have definitional borderlines and to have specific justifications for inclusion of material at the edges, and, since the publication of the last version of the bibliography, I have included additional elements in the definitions based on my own research and that of others. These definitions are intended to be useful for deciding whether or not to include a work in the bibliography. But even with these definitions the overriding goal of usefulness poses problems. Negley and Roemer include works that are influential (Negley) or “partially utopian” (Roemer), and I include those works, although not in a separate list as Negley does. But there are still works that are universally called utopias that fit no definition but cannot be excluded. For example, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a utopia only in the sense of no place, but so is all fiction. None of the people who call Robinson Crusoe a utopia really think that a person living alone on an isolated island and feeling miserable about it describes a good society. Still, I have included it and the very few other works like it, and most of the works that are thought of as part of the sub-genre called the Robinsonade are about small groups rather than one person. In parallel, it then becomes necessary to include works in the sub-genre called the “Last Man” (which should of course be the Last Person), all of which are dystopias and in very few of which the person is actually alone.

There are a few manuscripts included, but I have found no suggestion of other utopias still in manuscript. When I know a published utopia has been filmed or made into a radio or theatre play or any utopias originating in film, radio or theatre has been published, I have included them in the annotation with whatever relevant information I could find, but none of this has been done systematically.

I became aware of a gap in my coverage of utopian literature from reading Ralph Willingham’s Science Fiction and the Theatre (1994).[2] As a result, I have tried to read every play that he lists that has been published and find at least a summary of ones that were not published, not always successfully. I have also found a few that he had missed, but overwhelmingly the plays listed here I read due to his work.

Another area that required work is the result of recent research that has been done on utopian film. To take this work into account, in the annotations I have added information on utopian works that have been filmed and films that were turned into books. On the films, I have to the extent possible given the year of release and the name of the director and the author(s) of the screenplay. I do not include films that have no published form.[3] The addition of film is a work in progress, and I make no claim that it is comprehensive. I have also included material from television and radio in the same way as I have included film, but there are only a few from these sources. Finally, I have included a few utopias that originated on line. Some of these have been published in physical form, some still exist only on line, and some have disappeared since I read them, and I have noted that fact. Most of these I made copies of which will be included among my papers held by Pennsylvania State University.

A related issue are books that are only published as ebooks that are only available for purchase through something like Kindle, Nook, or other such services. Some will ultimately be published in physical form, but many will not. The ones listed, I purchased.

Also, given the huge upsurge in post-catastrophe and survivalist works, I went back to look at the earlier post-nuclear war fiction studied by Paul Brians in Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction 1895-1984 (1987) and David Dowling in Fictions of Nuclear Disaster (1987). I read everything that they discussed and added those that fit my definitions. I excluded those that focused just on the catastrophe without any sort of human community after the catastrophe.

Another area where there has been a tremendous increase in publication is in the category usually called young adult fiction. I have read all the works that I have found that have been so labeled as a young adult utopia or, mostly, dystopia, and I have gone back and reread some of the works I had earlier excluded simply because they were cataloged as children’s books. Most were not utopian, but I have included those that I concluded were.[4]

Unlike most published works, a significant amount of science fiction is reprinted multiple times. In fact, one well-known science fiction author told me that he moved from writing mysteries to writing science fiction because mysteries were rarely reprinted and the science fiction reprints meant he could make a better living writing science fiction. I have listed reprints that I have seen; in some cases there will be other reprints, perhaps many others. Science fiction is now also frequently republished in the form of a graphic novel or, less frequently a comic, with, in a few cases, the publishing history the other way around. Again I have listed those I have seen. I have also noted where the copyright page says something was originally published, but I have found that such information is often wrong and only if there is complete bibliographical information on previous publication can it be trusted because I have seen it. Finally, in a few cases which will undoubtedly grow, books have been published based on computer games, and I have noted that fact.

Another problem is posed by the rapid growth of POD or Publish on Demand publishing. For some years James Simmons has sent me lists of these works that could plausibly be called utopias. The Library of Congress does not collect what it considers “self-published” works;[5] it gets copies to record copyright but then discards them.[6] Since other libraries get such books solely by donation, they are extremely scarce, and I have ended up buying most of them and then donating them to the Arthur O. Lewis Utopia Collection in Special Collections at the Pennsylvania State University Library. I’m certain to have missed some, probably many.

There is no such thing as a complete or error-free bibliography, and I will continue to update and correct this one. The bibliography evolved over many years, and different decisions were at different times. As a result, there will be continuing revisions to make it more internally consistent.


[1] Beyond the boundaries of this bibliography I have explored utopianism outside the English-speaking world in my Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction and in the special issue of Utopian Studies that I edited with Jacqueline Dutton. For a more extended consideration of such material, see Dutton, “‘Non-western’ utopian traditions.” The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Ed. Gregory Claeys (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 223-58.

[2] Ralph Willingham, Science Fiction and the Theatre. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. See his “Appendix: Science Fiction Plays” (149-94). Not all the plays he lists are utopias.

[3] Lists that include some films that have no published form exist in Peter Fitting, “What Is Utopian Film? An Introductory Taxonomy.” Utopian Studies 4.2 (1993): 1-17; and Sylvie Dreyfus and Frédéric Ramires. “Filmographie.” Utopie: La quête de la société idéale en Occident. Ed. Lyman Tower Sargent, [Gregory Claeys], and Roland Schaer (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France/Fayard, 2000), 354. Rev. as "Utopia/Dystopia and Cinema." Utopia: The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World. Ed. Roland Schaer, Gregory Claeys, and Lyman Tower Sargent (New York: The New York Public Library/Oxford University Press, 2000), 381-82.

[4] A good place to start on this subject is Carrie Hintz, Elaine Ostry, Kay Sambell, and Rebecca Carol Noël Totaro. “Annotated Bibliography of Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults.” Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults. Ed. Carrie Hintz and Elaine Ostry (New York: Routledge, 2003), 200-31. Such a bibliography done today would be much longer. See also Balaka Basu; Katherine R. Broad; and Carrie Hintz, eds. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers. New York: Routledge, 2013.

[5] Personally I think this violates the purpose of a national library.

[6] Many books are copyrighted without sending copies to the Library of Congress, which sometimes leads to books being recorded that were never actually published.