Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


The world we live in, as well as the literature we consume, is dominated by ideology. The philosophical question of whether or not ‘knowledge’ is simply a facet of our ideological constraints is important to how we engage with art, whether in the form of literature or otherwise. This paper examines the relationship of knowledge to ideology, both in a literary and a philosophical sense, by reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost in conversation with Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and dissecting the ideological settings of each text, how knowledge is symbolized, and how the two concepts govern one another. In studying the remarkably similar narratives that Milton and Le Guin develop—with both repositioning a contemporary ideological conflict in a fantasy-style setting—it becomes clear that both share a preoccupation with the inner workings of ideology and how knowledge relates to it. Specifically, both use their fantastical setting as a background of ideological conflict, conflict disrupted or altered by the ‘acquisition’ of knowledge in some form. Using Foucault’s theoretical framework of the ‘episteme’ as put forward in The Order of Things, it becomes clear that knowledge is not wholly defined by ideological conditioning but that, instead, the two ideas function in tandem with one another to create a sense of reality. Thus, literature—fantastical literature in particular—can be read as an exploration of both of these interlinked concepts and an expounding upon the influence of ideology in our own perceptions of reality. In considering knowledge and ideology not as equatable, but codependent, we can better understand how such concepts can interact with literature and the realities it constructs.

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