Timewaster's Guide Archive

Departments => Books => Topic started by: stacer on December 12, 2003, 05:20:50 PM

Title: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: stacer on December 12, 2003, 05:20:50 PM
I completely forgot to give you that reference, Kije. I saw your articles and it reminded me. So I went looking, and I remember now. I got the feminism information from a bio that a classmate wrote last spring in my fantasy class when we read Wizard of Earthsea. So here's an excerpt from Jennifer's bio, with her references. I'm assuming that the first citation refers to Reid, which is cited in the paragraph before this one.


Finally, in the late 1960's Le Guin began to publish novels, beginning with Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile and City of Illusions. These novels introduce the Hainish Universe, a science fiction setting that Le Guin returned to again and again in later books. These first texts are considered both by critics and by Le Guin herself to be "inferior to her later work, haphazardly mixing scientific-sounding novelties with mythic elements." (9)

The Left Hand of Darkness, which Le Guin published in 1969, received a great deal of critical acclaim. It won both Nebula and Hugo awards from the Science Fiction Writers Association. Set on a planet where the inhabitants are neither male nor female, but cycle between the two genders, is regarded as a pioneering contribution to feminism, although that was not specifically Le Guin's intent. Later her youngest daughter Caroline, who specializes in women's studies, helped Le Guin to look back and reevaluate at her own assumptions about gender. She then realized that she had written much of her earlier work in a masculine tradition, as if she were "an honorary man." (10)

Her acceptance of herself as a woman writer instead of an imitation man led to the addition of Tehanu to her Earthsea series, almost 20 years after the third book was published. (10) In Tehanu, the leading character becomes aware of herself and the injustice of the woman's role in a male-dominated world. Len Hatfield, in a 1993 article, reinterprets the meanings of the original trilogy in light of the addition of Tehanu. In this examination, Hatfield argues that Tehanu allows the original books to be looked at in a new light. In Tehanu, Le Guin attributes the "Old Speech," the language of magic to a feminine realm, revising its patriarchal association in the earlier texts. (59) Hatfield suggests that, instead of implying that the first three books were pro-patriarchal, Tehanu allows "implicit subversions of patriarchy [to] become explicit." (61)

Many of Le Guin's works also promote her views of nonviolence and ecological awareness. In 1976 she published The Word For World is Forest, which commented on the destruction of land and community caused by the war in Vietnam. In 1986, the novel Always Coming Home, set on the pacific coast, "condemns the irresponsibility of our current carelessness about the impact of technology on the Earth." (Reid, 11) Another trend that constantly surfaces throughout Le Guin's writing is Taoist thought and a questioning of the Western polarization of good and evil.


Cummins, Elizabeth. Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin. (revised edition) South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Fadiman, Anne. "Ursula K. Le Guin: voyager to the inner land." Life 9 (1986): 23.

Hatfield, Len. "From Master to Brother: Shifting the Balance of Authority in Ursula K. Le Guin's Farthest Shore and Tehanu." Children's Literature 21 (1993): 43-65.

Le Guin, Ursula. "Ursula Le Guin: Biographical Sketch" Ursula K. Le Guin's Official Web Site. http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Hyperbite2000.html c.2001.

Le Guin, Ursula. "FAQ." Ursula K. Le Guin's Official Web Site. http://www.ursulakleguin.com/FAQ_Questionnaire5_01.html c.2003.

McCaffery, Larry. Alive and Writing: interviews with American Authors of the 1980s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Reid, Suzanne E. Presenting Ursula K. Le Guin. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997.

Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: Lieutenant Kije on December 13, 2003, 05:43:29 PM
Thanks.  I thought about those issues a lot as I was writing.  While I gave my opinion at times in the articles, I tried not to be too critical and biased.  I did mention that Tehanu was my least favorite of the series, and I wonder if that's because I'm a man and prefer "masculine" writing, or if other things factor in a as well.  And I also wonder whether I should feel guilty for not appreciating Tehanu, given why it was written.  I wonder about feeling guilty, but I don't think I ever will.
Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers on December 13, 2003, 09:50:46 PM
I don't think you should feel guilty for nto enjoying it. Often a series you enjoy will be changed significantly when the author/creator gets a new idea/ethos in their head. It can change the core of what you liked about it in the first place.
Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: Entsuropi on December 14, 2003, 09:31:49 PM
Personally, i couldn't really give a toss about gender issues (sexist? Guess so) so i will avoid those books thanks very much. I want dragons and magic, not dresses and boredom. :P
Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: Lieutenant Kije on December 15, 2003, 03:37:16 PM
books 1-3 are fine for dragons and magic.  And they're short!  Just don't read the others.
Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: Entsuropi on December 15, 2003, 07:31:16 PM
Read em already.
Title: Re: Ursula LeGuin
Post by: Mad Dr Jeffe on December 18, 2003, 02:30:03 PM
Whats most fascinating about Leguin is her pedigree...
her family is way accomplished in anthropology and it sneaks into her writing...