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Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions Paperback – 14 May 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (14 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675388
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Archaeologies of the Future is certainly among the most stunning studies of utopia and science fiction ever produced... a vast treasure trove of a book, crammed with brilliant apercus... Jameson is one of the world's most eminent cultural theorists, but he is also a peerless literary critic in the classical sense of the term..." - Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books "Jameson's skill in connecting diverse materials and theories, the suggestiveness of his insights, and his passionate conviction make this an exciting work." - Times Literary Supplement"

About the Author

Fredric Jameson is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University. He is the author of numerous books, including Late Marxism, The Modernist Papers and A Singular Modernity.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Vittorio Caffè on 24 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
It's not just a "new" book by Jameson; it also collects several essays which might be hard to retrieve, published as they were on different academic journals--some more than 30 years old. It's a sort of Jameson-on-SF omnibus, with his celebrated writings on Dick, plus other less famous but excellent essays on Heinlein and others. The first part is then much more than an introduction: it's Jameson general statement on science-fiction and utopia. Worth reading for all those who are scholarly interested in the genre.
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By John Fletcher on 9 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
There is little enough decent criticism of Science Fiction out there that, in principle, a collection of published essays and new material by a distinguished Marxist literary critic should be cause for celebration.
Well, to some extent it is, but be warned about a couple of things. First, Jameson is writing about SF as a facet of utopia, and not only spends a great deal of time analyzing More's classic work, but also concentrates very heavily on authors (like Robinson) who have overtly worked in the utopian tradition. There are methodological problems with this approach anyway, but even when it succeeds it tends to exclude lots of interesting material, and to artificially constrain the debate. That said, the concentration on Philip K Dick in the essays section is welcome, given how little critical attention that great writer has received.
Second, this is a Marxist work, less in the sense that it makes use of Marxist concepts (though it does to some extent) but much more in its employment of the peculiarly deadening style of Marxist cultural criticism, which often seems to have been machine translated from German ("world-historical" and so on) and is legally obliged to use the word "precisely" at least once a page. There are too many sentences along the lines of "As X might have said, rephrasing Y's comments on Z's unpublished notebooks", embedded in complete paragraphs which seem to serve no critical purpose at all. And finally, this is criticism as "reading", not interpretation. The critic is in charge, the author is merely the raw material.
Pity, really. Jameson has the potential to write a really good book on SF; let's hope he does so one day.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By opus on 20 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My title is the front blurb from Terry Eagleton. It is indeed a wonderful and fascinating look into the linked forms of Utopias and S.F.. I might have thought I knew about the genres, yet the only Utopia I have read is Bacon's New Atlantis, and apart from some Clarke (who Jameson barely touches) little else in SF. Films, of course, yet not the Star's, Trek or Wars, and for me the first episode of An Unearthly Child (1963) is the only really interesting Doctor Who.

Not withstanding therefore my ignorance, the book is persistently fascinating, and deserves to be re-read preferrably along with the works discussed; yet at the end I felt little enthusiasm to do so. The one book I might read is Gibson's Pattern Recognition, the least S.F. of the books discussed, but perhaps because partially set in a place I know (Camden High Street) and perhaps closer to (the non S.F.)Pynchon.

So what of those other popular genres: the Noir, the Mystery, the Western; the Thriller and so on? Perhaps one day, Jameson can apply his powerful intellect to explaining their relevance. The last chapter is on the Mars Trilogy of Robinson beginning with Red Mars. I almost wrote Marx for Mars and Red Marx likewise, for the bearded German makes (far too) frequent appearances - truly some intellectual opiate.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By nick on 29 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sat in the lounge, or the park, having a good book read. I love books. They're like t.v., if t.v. were shitter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Literature for our times 1 May 2011
By Gregory Alan Wingo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A non-apologetist review of the science fiction genre through the eyes of America's leading postmodernist thinker. You will need to bring your knowledge of the Western Canon and contemporary philosophy with you in order to fully appreciate this text. Its division into books I and II enables regular science fiction readers to access straight forward reviews in Book II.

Expect to learn from this book and don't expect him to enshrine SF into the Western Canon but rather to provide you with an understanding of the zeitgeist of the history of the genre and ourselves. Authors reviewed range from Dick to Robinson, Brunner to Le Guin. With a focus on utopianism and dystopia the subjects covered are sex and society, aliens and psychoanalyst, and the motifs and mechanics of this writing field.

Jameson also remarks on the differences between hard science fiction and fantasy. He clearly traces the link between the utopian members of the Western Canon and the rise of science fiction's paraliterature, and the societal needs for these works and their roots in the human collective conscienceness. He also notes the limits of critical literature and the "drift" of high literature into the domain of science fiction in recent years as a result of our postmodern condition and the limits of critical literature to deal with the disassociative nature of the contemporary experience.

The reader will be left with an understanding of the genre, our times, and our historical basis. He or she will also be perplexed as to how science fiction was replaced by fantasy as the popular literature of our times at the same moment it matured as a literary entity. One will also begin to understand how the internal dynamics of science fiction and its authors went from the popularizers of American modernism and imperialism to become the primary opponents of modernism in our times.

Be forewarned that Jameson does not see Marxism as a bad word but rather a critical tool for evaluating society.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Archaeologies of the Future 5 Jan. 2013
By TREAT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides a thorough exploration of the concept of utopia throughout history and builds the foundation for the postmodern era's vision of the ideal community.
5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Fails the 11th Thesis test 17 Dec. 2013
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."

Frederic Jameson is well-known as a marxist literary theorist. He is published by Verso Books, which is dedicated to disseminating marxist writings. Given that position, I hold Jameson to Marx's stance in his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, quoted above. I found virtually nothing in this book that I can use as a tool or as inspiration to change the world. It may be considered an impressive work of literary critique by specialists, but for those of us outside the field who look to Jameson as a source of marxist theory rather than just literary theory, ARCHAEOLOGIES OF THE FUTURE is not worth reading.

I read most of it while sitting in a coffee shop in central Berlin on Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, near Alexanderplatz and what was once the center of East Berlin in the DDR (East Germany). From where I sat I looked directly out across the street at the Marx-Engels Forum, statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I kept at it, plowing through Jameson's atrocious prose, hoping for a turn for the better that never came. (I have a Ph.D. and have no problem with dense academic writing, but Jameson is practically unreadable.)

His political judgement is dubious -- why is full employment progressive, but a guaranteed basic income is reactionary? Is he not familiar with the extensive literature and activism for a basic income in Europe, for instance the excellent book Basic Income: The Material Conditions of Freedom?

And while he discusses some of my favorite SF authors, including Delany, Dick, and LeGuin, he fails to include some notable utopias such as Bruce Sterling's great "The Shores of Bohemia," found in the collection Globalhead, and Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time.

The best Jameson can do, after an entire book (which is just part of this book -- it also includes a number of previously published essays) on utopias, is to say that it is important that there are utopian visions, that they constitute a disruption of the TINA proclamation of Capital (via Margaret Thatcher) -- There Is No Alternative! -- and represent an important discursive strategy.

Since we already knew that, we come away with nothing to assist us in the struggle.

(verified library loan)
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