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A Traveler from Altruria (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) (Paperback) by William Dean Howells (Author), David W. Levy (Editor)
First published in 1894, A Traveler from Altruria tells the story of a foreign visitor who presents the concept of a Utopian society. Howells hoped his novel would allow readers to confront the inconsistencies, imperfections, and injustices of Gilded Age America. Reprinted here as a historical document, the text is supported with a conprehensive introduction, chonology, and questions for consideration.
A Book Review from the November 1894 issue of The Atlantic Monthly
4 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Gem, April 15, 2000
By Arthur (Lawrence, Kansas)
Although this isn't considered one of Howells' better novels, it's one of my personal favorites. Towards the end of his career, this "dean" of American letters became increasingly concerned with political issues. In particular, he began to align himself, to an extent, with the socialist movement. He never became a full-blown socialist, but he did appreciate their philosophy and understand the limitations of our American democracy. As a result of this growing interest, Howells' fiction turned from socio-cultural concerns to matters of politics. A Traveler from Altruria is a fine example of this change in subject matter. Despite the fact that many critics have interpreted this ostensibly utopian novel as a blind--and rather naive--call to socialism, I heartily disagree. In fact, I contend that Howells was self-consciously and ironically questioning the socialist movement and the utopian tradition. Howells' underappreciated effort is concise, witty and sophisticated. I recommend it to all fans of American literature and to all students of political science. The Bedford edition is exquisitely packaged and shrewdly conceptualized. The introduction, appendices, and other ancillary materials make for a thorough and savvy document.
4 out of 5 stars Interesting Utopian Novel, September 15, 2001
By Nicole Davis (OK) (REAL NAME)
I really enjoyed this book although I thought at the beginning that it was really going to be dreary. I actually read it in a class taught by the editor of the book, David Levy. His insights during class made the book more interesting to me and I ended up really liking it. The utopia that it presents is unusual and quite unlike any I have encountered in any other piece of literature. The end of the novel does seem to kind of go off track into a seeminly endless socialist rambling, but overall the book is very good. Seeing our society from the Altrurian's point of view was kind of jolt and made me look at many things differently. Overall, I would recommend highly recommend this novel.