Vol. 3 (2014): Letter Writing in Early Modern Culture, 1500-1750
Part Two - Case Studies

The Prefatory/Postscript Letters to St. Thomas More’s <em>Utopia</em>: The Culture of ‘Seeing’ as a Reality-Conferring Strategy

Emmanouil Aretoulakis
BSFM: Laboratorio editoriale OA (Responsabile)
Published March 10, 2014
Keywords
  • Eye Witnessing,
  • Humanism,
  • Paratext,
  • Utopia
How to Cite
Aretoulakis, E. (2014). The Prefatory/Postscript Letters to St. Thomas More’s <em>Utopia</em&gt;: The Culture of ‘Seeing’ as a Reality-Conferring Strategy. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 3, 91-113. https://doi.org/10.13128/JEMS-2279-7149-14166

Abstract

The article discusses the significance of on-the-spot observation and eye witnessing as powerful scientific tools for establishing the real in the early sixteenth century. In particular, I argue that the simulation of such tools in the paratextual material to Utopia, especially the prefatory/postscript letters, enhance, preemptively, the verisimilitude of the Utopian society as well as the materiality of the island at hand. If eye witnessing is reality-conferring, then, the powerful Renaissance act of reading a text as a simulation of eye witnessing is reality-conferring too. In this light, to read Utopia through the paratextual letters is to place one’s trust in the literal existence of Utopia insofar as reading simulates the act of seeing with one’s own eyes and bearing witness to a palpable reality.