Utopia in Flora Tristan’s Letters

  • Máire Fedelma Cross


In this final chapter we examine the presence of the utopian ideal in Flora Tristan’s correspondence. As one of the most enduring themes that inspired socialist creativity during the July Monarchy, it also repelled activists as a dangerously loose construct. The utopian ideal of fraternity compelled Tristan to feel justified in asking for assistance from fellow militants and worker activists and inspired a wealth of epistolary responses from them. The utopian ideal could not legislate for success however. Reactions to Flora Tristan’s politics are as complex as the interpretations of her personality discussed in  Chapter 1. By expressing their opinions of the union ouvrière, the correspondents provided a reading of Tristan’s staged role as woman messiah. The letter-writers provided her with evidence of mentalities about fraternity as well as practical offers of help. In  Chapter 1 we examined the manner in which her work has been read by scholars. We presented the historians’ reactions to the political tensions of the July Monarchy in  Chapter 2. The letters written from the heart examined in  Chapter 3 reveal the reactions of her correspondents anxious to communicate with her for the sake of an ideal. In our sample survey of some of the letters we have seen how workers and fellow socialist intellectuals carefully crafted their replies to her exacting demands in order to retain their authority over their own schemes. In the polyphony of responses Tristan used ideas and people in a haughty and arrogant way. In  Chapter 4 we have seen how she expressed impatience with her critics in a particularly frank manner in her notes on the letters and in her diary and in her responses to some of the letters. Taken in the context of her burning ambition to serve a cause her fanaticism was not atypical of the sects and schools of socialism of her day. Small wonder that she was considered by Puech as among the ‘prophets’ of the nineteenth century announcing the hope of happiness that could be imminently fulfilled. For Puech, Tristan’s gender marked her brand of socialism, this ‘espoir d’un bonheur prochainement réalisable’.1


Gender Dimension Historical Phenomenon Socialist Creativity Utopian Socialism Utopian Dream 
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© Máire Fedelma Cross 2004

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  • Máire Fedelma Cross

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