Australian Journal of French Studies

The Utopian Future of Food in Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s L’An deux mille quatre cent quarante: rêve s’il en fut jamais (1771)

Australian Journal of French Studies (2021), 58, (1), 24–37.

Abstract

Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s novel L’An deux mille quatre cent quarante: rêve s’il en fut jamais (1771) was the first futuristic utopia—or “uchronia”—and its treatment of food reveals that alimentary concerns were important markers of both contemporary inequality and future harmony in pre-revolutionary France. This article examines the utopian future of food via three alimentary features of Mercier’s novel: food justice, food security and commensality. By considering these tropes as reflections of perceived flaws in Parisian society, it demonstrates the importance of encouraging imaginary projections of ideal solutions to food crises through such literary experiments. The critiques and ideals related to food presented in L’An 2440 are contextualized through reference to the historical economic and social issues that inspired them. In conclusion, Mercier’s preoccupations in the eighteenth century and his predictions for the twenty-fifth century are considered with regard to their relevance to twenty-first-century food challenges, at a moment that is mid-way between these two points on the author’s alimentary history chronology.

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Author details

DUTTON, JACQUELINE