Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. le Guin

Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. le Guin

Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. le Guin

Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. le Guin

Excerpt

We live in a society that believes itself to be rational – scientific and quantifiable. Yet, at the same time, we live in a culture that is saturated with the mythic. We speak of life as a journey; we are all heroes on our own quests. We seek the fantastic, the princess in the castle, the wizard peering into a crystal bowl. We tell fantastic stories of our technological age – of space ships, other worlds, aliens. and we tell the same stories – in myth, in fantasy, in science fiction. Or do we? Ursula K. Le Guin would answer yes and no. We do tell the same stories, to better and more fully understand what it means to be human, and yet we reinterpret, reimagine these stories, so that they reflect our contemporary world. It is this reimagining that is examined here and how this reimagining becomes rhetorical. Le Guin, through her revisioning and reshaping of myth in the stories she is telling, subverts myth – in particular the Myth of the Hero and the Quest, and the myth of utopia – as a way of making her argument for the importance of feminist and Native American solutions to our ways of making meaning.

Her rhetoric, when placed in historical and sociocultural context, becomes the rhetoric of Emerson, Thoreau, Peirce and Dewey: American romantic/pragmatic rhetoric – a rhetoric that argues for value to be given to the subjective, the personal and private, the small, and the feminine. the works of Le Guin examined are the Earthsea cycle, The Dispossessed, the Left Hand of Darkness, Always Coming Home, Four Ways to Forgiveness, Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea; two recent novellas, Dragonfly and Old Music and the Slave Women; and selected short stories. Among the theorists of language and culture and myth examined are Susanne Langer, Kenneth Burke, Lev Vygotsky, and Walter Fisher. in addition, Carl Jung's and Josep's Campbell's definitions and functions of myth are also examined, as theirs are the closest to Le Guin's own definitions.

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