1976 Buccaneer Books edition Introduction

Author: A. K. Dewdney

Abstract of Introduction: Dewdney begins by discussing the 'physical dimension' and the 'metaphysical dimension' of Flatland, claiming that the 'metaphysical dimension is Abbott's main interest. Specifically, he discusses how A. Square's visit from the Sphere serves as a metaphor for a religious experience (such as an encounter with a "higher" being). Dewdney then gives a thorough biographical sketch of Abbott. Dewdney appeals to Abbott's other works (specifically, Philomythus and The Kernel and the Husk) in order to explain how Flatland fits into Abbott's 'literary output'. Next, Dewdney discusses the social satire of Flatland. He then discusses Flatland in relation to Alice in Wonderland, and then in relation to several other books that have responded to or continued the story of Flatland.

Excerpt: The publication in England one hunderd years ago of Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland was greeted by reviews which ranged from "fascinating" to "mortally tedious." On the one hand, Abbott (1838-1926) had described an amusing and curious two-dimensional world inhabited by flat creatures knowing no space higher than their own. On the other hand, Abbott made of the Flatlanders' ignorance a metaphor suggesting that we solid folk are no better off when it comes to higher realities. While many Victorian readers found Abbott's tabletop world fascinating and, of itself, reason enough for a book, others found Abbott's continuing insistence on the metaphor somewhat distracting. His approach appeared too didactic. Besides, what gave his "gospel of three dimensions" such urgency as to dominate the story?

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