This archive-page is dedicated to the author of Islandia, Austin Tappan Wright. It is not being updated.


Austin Tappan Wright was born on 20 August, 1883 in Hanover, New Hampshire to John Henry Wright (Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University) and Mary Tappan Wright (a novelist). He was educated at Harvard College (1905), and Harvard Law School (1908), where he edited the Harvard Law Review and graduated cum laude. He married Margaret Garrad Stone and had four children, William Austin, Sylvia, Phyllis, Benjamin Tappan. After serving in the Boston law firm of Louis Brandeis, Wright took faculty positions at the University of California law school at Berkeley (1916-1924) and the University of Pennsylvania law school (1924-1931). He died on 18 September, 1931 in a car accident.


From his early childhood, Wright spent much of his private time developing an imaginary realm called Islandia, a community on a small subcontinent in the South Pacific. As he advanced in his career as a legal philosopher and teacher, Wright amassed thousands of pages detailing the geography, language, religion, history, and even the peerage of his own private utopia. After his death, Wright's widow taught herself to type and organized a two-thousand page novel from his papers. Her daughter edited the typescript to just over a thousand pages and persuaded Farrar & Rinehart to publish Islandia in 1942, eleven years after Wright's death. The book sold approximately 30,000 copies.

In the novel, a pre-industrial civilization confronts early twentieth century colonialism in a struggle to reconcile their happily unadorned culture with the excesses of modern technology. The protagonist, John Lang, attempts to mediate this culture clash as a United States consul - but gradually comes to appreciate Islandian life. Eventually, he brings his New England bride to the Island and rejects American culture altogether. Despite some elements of Islandia which contain a distressingly racist tinge, the novel's progressive attitude towards the state of women in Wright's time (and our own) made this novel a classic in utopian literature.


These are selected quotations from articles that address Wright or Islandia. In selecting alphabetical order for these excerpts, I've employed no overarching strategy to organize these ideas. They were simply useful in preparation for a small biographical essay I've written on the subject, located in the American National Biography, vol. 24, pp. 3-4: Oxford University Press. By all means, use these for your own research. However, I strongly suggest that you track down the original full text sources to ensure that your citations are in proper context.

Bacon, Leonard. (1942). Introduction. Islandia. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.

Cousins, Norman. (1942, April 11). The anniversary of 'Islandia.' The Saturday Review, p. 7.

Flieger, Verlyn. (1983). Wright's Islandia: Utopia and its problems. In M. Barr & N.D. Smith (Eds.).,Women and utopia: Critical Interpretations. (pp. 96-107). Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Jacobs, Naomi. (1995). Islandia: Plotting utopian desire. Utopian Studies, 6, 75-89.

Little, Robert. (1942, May 18). Daydream. Time Magazine, p. 86.

Lloyd, William. H. (1931). Austin Tappan Wright. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 80, 1-4.

McMurray, Orrin K. (1931). Austin Tappan Wright (1883-1931). California Law Review, 20, 60-61.

Oliver, Kenneth. (1955). The spectator's appraisal: Islandia revisited. The Pacific Spectator, 9, 178-182.

Powell, Lawrence C. (1957). 'All that is poetic in life': Austin Wright's Islandia. Wilson Library Quarterly, 31, 701-705.

Searles, Baird. (1991). Wright, Austin Tappan. In N. Watson & P.E. Schllinger (Eds.).,Twentieth Century Science-Fiction Writers, 3rd ed. (pp. 888-889). Chicago: St. James Press.

Staff. (1958, August 23). Vanished. The New Yorker, pp. 18-19.

Strauss, Harold. (1942, April 12). A novel that casts a spell. The New York Times Book Review, pp. 1, 22.

Wright, Austin T. (1915). 1915?. Atlantic Monthly, 115, 453-463.