Response Paper 4

Explain what Bradshaw argues in his article – quote the argument directly, and show the steps that he takes to explain his argument it in your own words.

Bradshaw argues that the respected analysis in the 1965 Yale edition introduction to More’s Utopia, penned by J.H. Hexter’s, is fallible. His exact argument stated: “I shall argue, in fact, that despite all the light which Hexter’s analysis throws on the text it is founded on an unsustainable hypothesis. Before he could attempt to make this argument, Bradshaw had to detail how Hexter arrived at his interpretive analysis. Bradshaw indicates that Hexter worked in conjunction with Edward Surtz in promulgating the 1965 Yale edition. More importantly, Surtz and Hexter provided separate introductions as they differed in their interpretive methods. Against this backdrop, Bradshaw demonstrates the errors of Hexter’s interpretive method has by testing it against More’s intentions of the text. Then, Bradshaw explicates the beliefs of humanism in relation to Christianity. These two steps in his argument ultimately render Hexter’s hypothesis unsustainable.

The first interpretive conflict Bradshaw seeks to resolve is the debate about what Utopia represents. In short, is it an idyll or ideal? Bradshaw notes More intended for his text to be a literary analysis. He does so in order to underscore one of Hexter’s first interpretive errors; that is to say Hexter was remiss in his analysis in regards to treating Utopia as an idyll than an ideal, which is what More had intended. In reviving Dermot Fenlin’s interpretive framework, which challenges that of Hexter, Bradshaw opens the discussion by highlighting errors in Hexter’s analysis.

To avoid making interpretive analyses himself, Bradshaw again indicates More’s intentions. In this case, Hexter’s interpretation about why More made the Utopians pagan is what Bradshaw tests against More’s intentions. Bradshaw notes once again that Hexter’s idyllic interpretation of Utopia contradicts what More intends. Thus, Bradshaw’s argument begins to validate itself in that Hexter’s interpretative analysis is flawed. The next step in achieving his argument then, is proving Hexter’s original hypothesis itself unsustainable.

Bradshaw is contending Hexter’s hypothesis, which claims that Utopia was intended to portray a Christian commonwealth. Having already proved Hexter’s analysis fallible, Bradshaw now seeks to debunk his hypothesis by explicating the true nature of being Christian. Hexter establishes that a true Christian is constituted by his actions. More and Erasmus, however, are more convinced that true knowledge of Christianity, the virtue of Christ, is what constitutes a true Christian. More and Erasmus also subscribe to the humanist belief that even pagans who act and do as Christians would cannot be true Christians as they lack the knowledge of Christ. Bradshaw uses this belief as evidence to render Hexter’s hypothesis invalid, because if the Utopians do not have knowledge of Christ, then there is no Christian nature about them whatsoever. Therefore, the commonwealth of Utopia is fundamentally pagan, not Christian. Bradshaw has thus fulfilled his claim that Hexter’s hypothesis is unsustainable.

Works Cited

Bradshaw, Brendan. “More on Utopia.” The Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press) 24, no. 1 (March 1981): 1-27.