Somewhere at the intersection of attending Quaker schools in Pennsylvania, visiting New Harmony in Indiana, and my love for Nathaniel Hawthorne, I became interested in utopias. What immediately drew me in was not the philosophy behind the communities, but the physical environment that expressed a life different from my own. I had such a hard time imagining a childhood apart from my parents, living in a large dormitory with other children, that I have wanted to know more about the lives of people there.
My preliminary research led me to the communism section of the library (which is amusingly located on the top floor in the far corner) where I picked out several encyclopedias to find out more basic information. I decided that education and childhood could possibly be a good focus, but I quickly became bored with the subject and abandoned it. I floated without any real direction for several days until my meeting with Professor Mackintosh. He advised me that the most interesting utopias to research would probably be Brook Farm, New Harmony, and Oneida. He also cautioned that any discussion in Oneida would be highly concerned with the sexual lives of the members. I am also interested in Transcendentalism and Hawthorne, so I decided to avoid Oneida and conduct more research into Brook Farm.
Brook Farm began as a transcendentalist experiment in 1841, but modified itself after several years to follow Fourierism and construct a Phalanx. Fourierism was a much larger movement that resulted in several other American utopias including the North American and Wisconsin Phalanxes. I think it could be interesting to research these others along with Brook Farm and compare them.
The most useable primary sources I have found are articles within archived editions of the New-York Daily Tribune in which various people, including Horace Greeley, have written to describe their life at or visit to Brook Farm. The articles are biased to some degree because the authors feel strongly about the advantages of the community. This is a potential concern because they tend to focus on promoting the ideals rather than accurately depicting life there. I do not know specifically what research questions these articles will help me answer because I have not chosen a specific aspect of Brook Farm or Fourierism that I want to research. However, they address the concerns of the Fourierist movement and the Brook Farm community. The authors also give a quick summary of life at Brook Farm in introduction to their main idea. I anticipate that in the future, these articles will help me understand daily life in Brook Farm or other American phalanxes.