Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. le Guin's Nonfiction

By Rashley, Lisa Hammond | Biography, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. le Guin's Nonfiction


Rashley, Lisa Hammond, Biography


I am a man. Now you may think I've made some kind of silly mistake about gender, or maybe that I'm trying to fool you, because my first name ends in a, and I own three bras, and I've been pregnant five times, and other things like that that you might have noticed, little details. But details don't matter. ... I am a man, and I want you to believe and accept this as a fact, just as I did for many years.

--"Introducing Myself," The Wave in the Mind (3)

[U]ntil the mid-seventies I wrote my fiction about heroic adventures, high-tech futures, men in the halls of power, men--men were the central characters, the women were peripheral, secondary. Why don't you write about women? my mother asked me. I don't know how, I said. A stupid answer, but an honest one.

--"The Fisherwoman's Daughter," Dancing at the Edge of the World (234)

Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the most honored contemporary American authors, is best known for her science fiction and fantasy, though she has done extensive work in other genres, including poetry and nonfiction, as well as some writing that is difficult to categorize, borrowing from the realms of mainstream realistic fiction, science fiction, and magical realism. Since the late 1960s, Le Guin has challenged numerous conventions of science fiction in her novels, depicting characters who redefine our understandings of gender and race and creating plots with clear political subtexts. One of the most constant themes in Le Guin's long and respected career has been her ongoing effort to reconceptualize gender, and in that process of redefinition, she has never been afraid to consider and reconsider her positions. Hailed by critics as a pioneering author questioning gender roles in the traditionally male realm of science fiction, she has also been simultaneously reviled for focusing her fiction on male characters, and even for unintentionally depicting androgynous characters as masculine. The intense critical scrutiny her fiction has undergone has been mirrored in many respects by her own examination of her personal attitudes about gender as well. Since 1969, Le Guin has reexamined--and most importantly, reinterpreted--her fiction, but she has also moved far beyond simple examinations of gender roles to an actual performance of her own changing gendered identity, especially that of the woman writer. In much of her nonfiction, Le Guin employs the same fundamental narrative techniques of experimentation and play that characterize her fictional writing to create multiple feminist identities through narrated autobiographical bodies. Le Guin embodies gender as a provocative process, constructing selves vested in female bodies and identities, but at the same time, refusing what she terms "sexualist reductionism" (Wave 285); that is, reducing those bodies to their sex and gender. In these performances, Le Guin challenges her readers' and her own understanding of both gender and genre, an ongoing feminist process she has now continued in print for nearly forty years.

Le Guin's initial public forays into the controversial realm of redefining gender began with the 1969 publication of The Left Hand of Darkness. The novel's depiction of an androgynous race challenged conventional wisdom in science fiction genres at the time, but the critical response to the book produced a firestorm of both praise and criticism for Le Guin's work that occasioned her reexamination of her attitudes about gender. (1) Still taught regularly in science fiction and women's studies courses, the novel portrays the planet Winter's androgynous cultures, as seen largely through the eyes of a young black man from Earth, Genly Ai. As the first of several narrators in the book, Ai's perceptions of the people of Winter provide the initial descriptions of the people and planet, and he has a pronounced tendency to read these people through his own gendered lens as men or women, according to his own preconceptions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. le Guin's Nonfiction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.