Astonishment: a manifestation of utopian feelings

Utopia represents the expression of the experience of lack in any given society or culture, as Ruth Levitas (2000) argues in her article For Utopia: The (limits of the) Utopian function in late capitalist society. This condition is an important part of understanding the utopian aspirations of a given society and its propensity to reach for a better life. Furthermore, this utopian desire, as the philosopher Ernst Bloch analyses, is divided into abstract and concrete. Abstract utopias can refer to a banal optimism, while concrete utopias depict the hope of a collective or the one who dreams for many (Muñoz, 2009 p.3).

The idea of hope is at the centre of Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia (2009). Based on the theory of Bloch which identifies hope as critical utopianism and the modern world as a thing of wonder, Muñoz combines the work of artists such as Andy Warhol and Frank O’Hara with the sense of astonishment. The author describes astonishment as a manifestation of utopian feelings, a contemplation that can be found in the artworks of both Warhol and O’Hara. The celebration of the city and ordinary things represents O’Hara’s signature throughout his poems. The American poet is constantly astonished about the urban landscape, which is harmoniously portrayed as an ideal place where present and future meet.

O’Hara’s poem Having a Coke with You alongside with Warhol’s Coke Bottle symbolise the quotidian act of consuming a coke, with a sense of exhilaration in which society is imbued. The poem, in which O’Hara is depicted consuming a common commodity with his beloved one while talking about city landscapes such as Barcelona and New York, ‘echoes Bloch’s own aesthetic theories concerning the utopian function of art'(Muñoz, 2009 p. 7). The utopian function is there concealed in the promise of futurity, developed by planning to visit with his lover the Polish Rider exhibition. Moreover, O’Hara writes about artists such as Leonardo and Michelangelo, whose works used to astonish the author, leaving a sense of pleasant continuity that will keep astonishing people in the future.

Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz,


or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona

partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St.


partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for


partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches

partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and


it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as


as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it

in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth

between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint

you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look

at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the


except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the


which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together

the first time

and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of


just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or

at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used

to wow me

and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them

when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the

sun sank

or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as


as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience

which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you

about it



Levitas, R. (2000). For Utopia: The (limits of the) Utopian function in late capitalist society. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2017].

Muñoz, J. (2009). Cruising utopia. 1st ed. New York: New York University Press, p.3-7.

Graphic By Marta De Prisco


Utopia City. (2017). [image] Available at: [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017].


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