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Article

Aldous Huxley's Late Turn to Bergson and Island as Bergsonian Utopia

Utopian studies. 2018. Vol. 29. No. 3. P. 362-379.

Aldous Huxley’s final novel, Island (1962), famously combines Eastern and Western thought. However, many readings of the novel compartmentalize the engagement with science in the novel as Western and its engagement with philosophy as Eastern, with the consequence that aspects of the novel rooted in Western philosophy are often overlooked. This article argues that, among Western writing, attention to Henri Bergson is particularly revealing with respect to Island. Both Bergson’s philosophy of the function of the mind and his reflections on social evolution have major parallels within Huxley’s novel. The reflection of Bergsonian ideas in Island marks the culmination of a long journey for Huxley: he had been familiar with Bergson for fifty years prior to its publication. This article traces Huxley’s progress from initial coolness toward the then-modish Bergson to eventual acclamation, culminating in Island.