“In the late nineteenth century,” writes Matthew Beaumont, “a spectre haunts history, the spectre of utopia” (17). Despite the predictability of its reference to the Communist Manifesto, Beaumont's claim works because of the ironic distance between the specter of imminent revolution raised by Marx and Engels and the spectrality of political hope at the fin de siècle. One might even say that the late nineteenth-century specters Beaumont attends to—which include not only the consumerist ideology woven into Bellamy's Looking Backward but also Madame Blavatsky's occultism and the notion of telepathy as a sort of mass hypnotic engine for political change that Beaumont discovers in the feminist periodical Shafts—are the farcical repetitions spawned by the tragic failure of the earlier revolutionary one.

At the outset of The Spectre of Utopia, Beaumont defines utopia “as occupying a shifting, often contradictory space between the utopian and the ideological, between fantasy...

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