• Montse DomínguezMunllonch

Books that every feminist women should read. The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction: Ursula K. Le Guin


Books that every feminist women should read. The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction: Ursula K. Le Guin

In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, visionary author Ursula K. Le Guin retells the story of human origin by redefining technology as a cultural carrier bag rather than a weapon of domination. Hacking the linear, progressive mode of the Techno-Heroic, the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution proposes:


⁠❛ before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home ❜⁠

Prior to the preeminence of sticks, swords and the Hero's long, hard, killing tools, our ancestors' greatest invention was the container: the basket of wild oats, the medicine bundle, the net made of your own hair, the home, the shrine, the place that contains whatever is sacred. The recipient, the holder, the story. The bag of stars. This influential essay opens a portal to terra ignota: unknown lands where the possibilities of human experience and knowledge can be discovered anew. With a new introduction by Donna Haraway, the eminent #cyberfeminist, author of the revolutionary A Cyborg Manifesto and most recently, Staying with the Trouble and Manifestly Haraway. With images by Lee Bul, a leading South Korean #feministartist who had a retrospective at London's Hayward Gallery.


Who is this #remarkablewoman ? Ursula Kroeber Le Guin October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018) was an American author best known for her works of speculative fiction, including science fiction works set in her Hainish universe, and the Earthsea fantasy series. She was first published in 1959, and her literary career spanned nearly sixty years, yielding more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories, in addition to poetry, literary criticism, translations, and children's books. Frequently described as an author of science fiction, Le Guin has also been called a "major voice in American Letters." Le Guin herself said she would prefer to be known as an "American novelist.





Gender and sexuality

Gender and sexuality are prominent themes in a number of Le Guin's works. The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, was among the first books in the genre now known as feminist science fiction, and is the most famous examination of androgyny in science fiction. The story is set on the fictional planet of Gethen, whose inhabitants are ambisexual humans with no fixed gender identity, who adopt female or male sexual characteristics for brief periods of their sexual cycle. Which sex they adopt can depend on context and relationships. Gethen was portrayed as a society without war, as a result of this absence of fixed gender characteristics, and also without sexuality as a continuous factor in social relationships. Gethenian culture was explored in the novel through the eyes of a Terran, whose masculinity proves a barrier to cross-cultural communication. Outside the Hainish Cycle, Le Guin's use of a female protagonist in The Tombs of Atuan, published in 1971, was described as a "significant exploration of womanhood".

Le Guin at a reading in Danville, California (June 2008)

Le Guin's attitude towards gender and feminism evolved considerably over time. Although The Left Hand of Darkness was seen as a landmark exploration of gender, it also received criticism for not going far enough. Reviewers pointed to its usage of masculine gender pronouns to describe its androgynous characters, the lack of androgynous characters portrayed in stereotypical feminine roles,[139] and the portrayal of heterosexuality as the norm on Gethen. Le Guin's portrayal of gender in Earthsea was also described as perpetuating the notion of a male-dominated world; according to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, "Le Guin saw men as the actors and doers in the [world], while women remain the still centre, the well from which they drink". Le Guin initially defended her writing; in a 1976 essay "Is Gender Necessary?" she wrote that gender was secondary to the novel's primary theme of loyalty. Le Guin revisited this essay in 1988, and acknowledged that gender was central to the novel; she also apologized for depicting Gethenians solely in heterosexual relationships.


Le Guin responded to these critiques in her subsequent writing. She intentionally used feminine pronouns for all sexually latent Gethenians in her 1995 short story "Coming of Age in Karhide", and in a later reprinting of "Winter's King", which was first published in 1969. "Coming of Age in Karhide" was later anthologized in the 2002 collection The Birthday of the World, which contained six other stories featuring unorthodox sexual relationships and marital arrangements. She also revisited gender relations in Earthsea in Tehanu, published in 1990.


This volume was described as a rewriting or reimagining of The Tombs of Atuan, because the power and status of the female protagonist Tenar are the inverse of what they were in the earlier book, which was also focused on her and Ged. During this later period she commented that she considered The Eye of the Heron, published in 1978, to be her first work genuinely centered on a woman.




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