La mise en scène icarienne:The Construal of Utopian Space in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1849-58

Open Access
Tritch Roman, Gretta Suzanne
Graduate Program:
Art History
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Craig Robert Zabel, Thesis Advisor
  • Nancy Elizabeth Locke, Thesis Advisor
  • Brian A Curran, Thesis Advisor
  • Craig Robert Zabel, Dissertation Advisor
  • architecture
  • Illinois
  • Nauvoo
  • Etienne Cabet
  • Icarian
  • Icaria
  • urban planning
Exemplified by the hundreds of utopian communal colonies established throughout the nineteenth-century, building utopia meant constructing an archetype that proved communism’s practicability in an unjust world needing reform. With the novel written by their leader, Etienne Cabet, in hand, a group of French communists employed Voyage en Icarie as a guide in building their own Icaria on the tabula rasa that was the American frontier. As a site for their first functioning settlement, Nauvoo, Illinois, posed several paradoxes for the Icarian communistic idealism of a classless model of reform from 1849, until they departed to establish their true Icaria in 1858, on the plains of Iowa. Conceived more as an application of Icarian ideology to be demonstrated rather than a designed plan for utopia, Nauvoo presents a surprisingly apt example of the reformative model despite the contradictions. This argument addresses how the Icarians used the space of their community, more so than how they designed it, as a display of their hope for the direction of human behavior and even humanity at large.