Our Message Was Electric: Susan Howe and the Resuscitation of Failed Utopian Projects

  • Jason Lagapa
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


This chapter reveals the utopian impulse and rhetoric of negation that underpin Susan Howe’s investigation of the historical past. Two of Howe’s works, Souls of the Labadie Tract and The Midnight, address the consequences of failed utopian social ideals. Central to each book is a visionary figure: Jean de Labadie is a seventeenth-century pastor whose religious beliefs inspire a utopian sect in Maryland in Souls of the Labadie Tract, and landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted envisions an ideal municipal park in Buffalo, New York, in The Midnight. Lagapa argues that, despite the collapse of these men’s plans, a utopian dynamic might be resuscitated from their failed projects, particularly if Howe’s poems are read properly—as a negative image of the promise of utopia.


Susan Howe Utopia Negation Dystopia Failure Negation 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Lagapa
    • 1
  1. 1.English DepartmentUniversity of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessaUSA

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