It is as a romantric Utopian rather than a novelist or profound thinker that Edward Bellamy is remembered and read today. While working as a journalist in Springfield, Massachusetts, he began to write novels and later short stories but did not achieve much success until the publication of Looking Backward (1888). The hero of this fantasy falls asleep in 1887 and awakens in the year 2000 to find himself in a humane scientific and socialistic utopia. After selling fewer than 10,000 copies in its first year, Looking Backward became enormously popular. Clubs were formed to promote Bellamy's social ideas, and he became a leader of a nationalist movement, crusading for economic equality, brotherhood, and the progressive nationalization of industry. Americans as diverse as Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey have been influenced by Bellamy's suggestion that the products of industrial energy, intelligently organized, could be used to obtain a nobler future. His The Religion of Solidarity (1940), long out of print, is again available.
Cecelia Tichi is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She is author or editor of eleven books, including Exposes and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900/2000, and was awarded the 2009 Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association.