Lyman Tower Sargent Award for Distinguished Scholarship

The Society’s by-laws describe this award as aimed at recognizing “lifetime achievements, for diversified activity, and for accomplishments not only in the academic fields to which we are accustomed, but also for achievements in fields not usually considered for academic promotion and tenure,” with distinguished work in at least two of the following areas: “Literary/ Publication/Published Scholarship”, “Teaching”, and “Professional service/non-literary activity”.


The Society invites nominations from any member for the Lyman Tower Sargent Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

This Award is given for lifetime achievements for diversified activities. Nominees need not be members of the Society, but only Society members may make nominations. For details regarding this award, including the criteria nominees are expected to meet, see Article VII of the By-laws. Please send letters of nomination , accompanied by a vita of the nominee, to:

Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor,
President, Society for Utopian Studies



Lyman Tower Sargent Award for Distinguished Scholarship has been presented to:

Vita Fortunati, Università degli Studi Bologna

Darko Suvin, McGill University (emeritus)

Ruth Levitas

Professor Ruth Levitas is the 2012 recipient of the Lyman Tower Sargent Award for Distinguished Scholarship. Throughout the trajectory of her career, Professor Levitas has advanced the study of utopia both within her own disciplinary area of sociology and in the interdisciplinary field of utopian studies itself.  Her robust and creative scholarship and her tireless and responsive professional service have long been, and continue to be, central to the development and vitality of utopian studies.

Levitas’s The Concept of Utopia stands as one of the formative historical and theoretical pillars of utopian scholarship. From its initial publication in 1990 through to it second edition in 2010, it has introduced, challenged and shaped our understanding of utopia as a social-political force in the world. In its new student edition, it will bring the lesson of utopia to upcoming generations.
Beyond Concept, Levitas has continued to investigate the theory and function of utopia –especially in relation to social theory, oppositional politics, and social exclusion in a range of essays in key journals and books in her fields, as seen in the following indicative list of more recent work: “Towards a Utopian Ontology: Secularism and Post-secularism in Ernst Bloch and Roberto Unger” (Journal of Contemporary Thought  2010), “Be Realistic: Demand the Impossible” (New Formations 2008), “Being in Utopia” (The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture 2008), “Pragmatism, Utopia and Anti-Utopia” (Critical Horizons 2008), “Looking for the Blue: The Necessity of Utopia” (Journal of Political Ideologies 2007), “Utopia in Dark Times” (Dark Horizons 2003), “On Dialectical Utopianism” (History of the Human Sciences 2003), “Against Work: A Utopian Incursion into Social Policy” (Critical Social Policy 2001), “For Utopia: The (Limits of the) Utopian Function Under Conditions of Late Capitalism” (The Philosophy of Utopia 2000).

Levitas has also examined the linkage between utopia, memory and place: in her book on William Morris, Morris, Hammersmith & Utopia (2005) and her essay, “The Archive of the Feet: Memory, Place, and Utopia” (in Exploring the Utopian Impulse 2007). In addition, she studies the utopian dimensions of music, and in 2010 she co-edited (with Tom Moylan) a special issue of Utopian Studies on the topic. Writing as both a utopian scholar and a musician, she contributed her own essay to this issue (“In Eine Bess’re Welt Entruckt: Reflections on Music and Utopia”), which has helped set the conceptual and theoretical stage for future studies of this relationship.

In addition to this already substantial body of work, Levitas has most recently entered into an important line of investigation on utopia as method, one that is crucial for the current revival of utopian thinking and practice. From her 2005  inaugural professorial lecture (“The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society: or Why Sociologists and Others Should Take Utopia Seriously”), her essay, “The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society: Utopia as Method” (in Utopia Method Vision 2007), and her essay, “Back to the Future: Wells, Sociology, Utopia and Method” in Sociological Review 2010), she has developed a project (funded by the Leverhulme Trust for 2010-2012) that will produce a major monograph on utopia as method.

Along with her scholarship, Levitas has been an international leader in building the field and its professional organizations.  She was a co-founder of the Utopian Studies Society in Britain, and she then was a key leader in the re-launch of the organization, as the Society as the Utopian Studies Society – Europe, in 1999.  She served as Chair of the Society from its early days up until 2006 and then on its steering committee for several more years.  Levitas has also been a significant contributor to the work of The Ralahine Centre at the University of  Limerick, where she has contributed in several topic areas: a session on critical thinking co-presented with the newly elected President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins; a seminar on utopia and music jointly held by the Ralahine Centre and the UL World Music Academy which led to the work of the special music-utopia issue; and a workshop and critical review organized by the Ralahine Centre and the UL School of Architecture. The latter resulted from the activity of the Working Group on Architecture and Utopia, which had its origins in Levitas’s collaboration with Nathaniel Coleman and Lyman Tower Sargent.

Ruth Levitas is a leading international thinker in the areas of utopia, social theory, and political engagement. Her work has been translated into several languages, and she has presented her work not only in print and lectures/presentations but also on radio and on line. With all her contributions taken into account along with her dynamic presence as she works within the field and as she takes the message of utopia outward, she is richly

Ursula K. Le Guin

Peter Fitting

Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson is one of the most important intellectuals of the last fifty years, having produced a tremendous amount of influential scholarship-this is now compromised of more than 20 books and hundreds of essays, with other major books to be released in the near future. Jameson’s overall contribution was also acknowledged in the fall of 2008 with the Norwegian parliament’s naming him as the fifth recipient of the Holberg International Memorial Prize awarded to a scholar working in the fields of the arts and humanities, social sciences, law, and theology. The question of Utopia is central to all of Jameson’s work. For example, his second book, Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (1971), played a significant role in introducing to an English reading audience the rich theorizations of Utopia found in German critical theory, in works written by Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, and most significantly, Ernst Bloch. Similarly, Jameson’s 1977 Diacritics essay, “Of Islands and Trenches: Neutralization and the Production of Utopian Discourse,” was the first to introduce to a U.S. readership Louis Marin’s groundbreaking book, Utopiques: Jeux d’espaces (1973). Jameson’s deeply influential effort to formalize an original Marxist literary and cultural hermeneutic, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981), also directly addresses the problematic of Utopia, illuminating, for example, the Utopian figurations and horizons to be found in the fictions of Honoré de Balzac and Joseph Conrad and realism and modernism more generally. The commitment to the “dialectic of Utopia and ideology” is also evident in Jameson’s influential reconsideration of the labors of the mass cultural text, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” (1979), where he argues that ideology in mass culture is impossible without Utopia. In his landmark 1991 book, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, the winner of the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize for an outstanding work in criticism, Jameson argues that even in a cultural situation that seems allergic to Utopia, nevertheless “one finds everywhere today-not least among artists and writers-something like an unacknowledged ‘party of Utopia’: an underground party whose numbers are difficult to determine, whose program remains unannounced and perhaps even unformulated, whose existence is unknown to the citizenry at large and to the authorities, but whose members seem to recognize one another by means of secret Masonic signals.” In his 1992 book, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System, Jameson explores the Utopian figurations at work in Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion and Kidlat Tahimik’sThe Perfumed Nightmare; and in his Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory published under the title, The Seeds of Time (1994), Jameson explores the anti-Utopianism of postmodern thought more generally, before moving on to an investigation of the Utopian strains at work in the architectural projects of Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, and the Critical Regionalist movement. Moreover, the centerpiece of this study is a breathtaking reading of the then recently “rediscovered” modernist Utopia, Andrei Platonov’s Chevengur. Jameson also wrote essays on a diverse array of Utopian and science fictional texts, a number of which were brought together in the second half of his book, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2005). These include deeply influential essays on the work of Thomas More, Charles Fourier, George Bernard Shaw, A.E. Van Vogt, Brian Aldiss, Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Vonda MacIntyre, William Gibson, and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Tom Moylan

Tom Moylan is honored for his groundbreaking books and leadership in the field of Utopian Studies. In Demand the Impossible, he formulated the concept of the critical utopia and identified the key group of four novels that are still central to any discussion of 1970s utopianism. By bringing critical theory to bear on utopian fictions, he made it possible to conceive of how texts can be ironic and self-reflexive, yet still carry political force. Scraps of the Untainted Sky performed similarly significant work by theorizing the critical dystopia. In addition to these foundational books, the Society honors Professor Moylan’s contributions in article-length works on topics ranging from liberation theology to his recent work with Irish music. Equally important is his work as an editor, including the collection of essays on Bloch that Professor Moylan edited with Jamie Daniel, the Jameson special issue of Utopian Studies, and volumes edited with Raffaella Baccolini and with Michael Griffin, collections well-known for bringing together people working in disparate areas of utopian studies. Professor Moylan’s formative and energetic work with the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies at the University of Limerick has created a remarkable forum for global and interdisciplinary scholarship. In the words of Professor Naomi Jacobs: “Through his tireless work to organize lecture series colloquia and conferences, as well as through his own scholarship, [Tom Moylan’s] influence on the field has been ‘incalculably diffusive’ (to steal a phrase from George Eliot).”

Ken Roemer

Ken Roemer is the author of some of the most important studies of American utopian literature to be published in the last thirty years. He has worked indefatigably to support the teaching of utopian literature as a significant area of American studies, the careers of young scholars in the field, and the work of the Society as a whole. Ken Roemer’s first book, The Obsolete Necessity: America in Utopian Writings, 1888-1900 (Kent State University Press, 1976) appeared only a year after the Society’s founding in 1975, and became a landmark achievement in both American and utopian literary studies, even being nominated at the time for a Pulitzer Prize. Through a diverse range of essays and interventions on the work of Bellamy, Wells, Skinner, Le Guin and others, and including his efforts in assembling, writing for, and editing the important 1981 volume America as Utopia (Burt Franklin), Ken continued not only to help advance the nascent field of utopian studies, but also to enrich American studies more generally (something he equally contributed in his diverse and groundbreaking work in Native American literary studies). The continued significance of Ken’s scholarship to the development and progress of utopian studies is seen in his most recent book in the field, Utopian Audiences: How Readers Locate Nowhere (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). In this original and innovative study, Ken turns to the often-neglected question of the readers of utopian literature, and shows in great detail how the studies of readers, actual and implied, can further deepen the field of utopian studies. Ken has long been a dedicated teacher of utopian literature, not only developing a number of different courses in his years at the University of Texas, Arlington, but also sharing his methods and insights in his textbook, Build Your Own Utopia: An Interdisciplinary Course in Utopian Speculation(University Press of America, 1981). In all of his work – as a scholar, teacher, mentor, and leading member of the Society – Ken Roemer has contributed tremendously to the development of the field of utopian studies.

Gregory Claeys, University of London

Professor Claeys’ extensive writings on utopianism include fourteen edited volumes of utopias, making available texts that had been extremely difficult to access, as well as two important authored books on Robert Owen. He co-edited the Utopian Reader and the Syracuse University Press Series on Utopianism and Communitarianism; he also consulted with the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the New York Public Library on the 2000 exhibit on Utopias, as well as on the creation of the two resulting volumes. His contributions as teacher, editor and scholar of utopian studies have been essential to the field.

Gorman Beauchamp, University of Michigan

Professor Beauchamp is honored as a scholar of remarkable accomplishment, as a founder and supporter of the Society, and as an important influence on young scholars who have been drawn to the field through his encouragement and example. His perceptive and witty scholarship has helped to build the intellectual program and international reputation of the field of utopian studies. Through his distinguished publications, as well as the papers presented with impeccable style at conferences in the United States and abroad, he has inspired and enlightened a host of admiring colleagues.

Lyman Tower Sargent, Professor of Political Science, University of Missouri-St. Louis. A founding member and past president of the Society, Professor Sargent is the author of British and American utopian literature, 1516-1985 : an annotated, chronological bibliography (New York : Garland, 1988), “The Three Faces of Utopia,” and many other works on utopian literature and theory.

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