Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness
for reading The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
The Cold War
of 'hot' (nuclear) war
"frozen" in struggle
an envoy from the Ekumen
- Le Guin
is the daughter of anthopoligist Alfred Kroeber
- Ishi: "the
last wild indian in North America"
- the envoy
Genly Ai as participant observer
explores the "economy of nature," "the total relations
of the animal both to its inorganic and to its organic
environment; including above all, its friendly and inimical
relations with those animals and plants with which it
comes directly or indirectly in contact."(Ernst Haeckel,
- Ai studies
Gethen as a "whole system"
- the ethos
of ecology: valuing diversity, complexity
- how does
one explain the observed differences between men and women?
- A counter-myth:
4 stages of kemmer
kind of s/f mirror does Gethen become for the earth bound
does Le Guin develop a fictional vehicle
["in the peculiar, devious, and thought-experimental manner
proper to science fiction, " Preface] to take readers
radically beyond the confines of our understanding of
honor, prestige, face, place, "the untranslatable
and all important principle of social authority"
monarchy versus the commensalities, bureacracies, farms
- the absence
of organized war
- art of
Meshe at the Center of Time
the success of Genly Ai's mission on Gethen with the relationship
he forms with Therem Harth Estraven
- After rescuing
Ai, Estraven's complaint
- the meaning
of the survival adventure
glad I have lived to see this"
aphorism: "It is good to have an end to journey
towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the
end." [chiasmus = "end: journey :: journey: end"]
'joy' of cheating DEATH (for a while)
heroism: cunning and tragic
How do Genly
Ai and Estraven touch each other across the bridge of difference?
Please read (or reread) pages 221-261 for next lecture.
Please consider these questions:
- What is
Le Guin's formula for resolving the radical differences
- Do you
agree with it?
the left hand of darkness
And darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
Together like lovers in kemmer,
Like hands joined together,
Like the end and the way.' (233-4)
you know that sign?' He looked at it a long time with a
strange look, but he said, 'No.'
'It's found on Earth...It is yin and yang. Light is the
left hand of darkness...how did it go? Light, dark.
Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself,
Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow.'" (267)
Bridge of Difference between Estraven and Genly Ai
is opaque to the other, but the plot brings them together
leap of faith
- Genly Ai's
capture and torture
- They have
a shared project
they are alone together
and trust as a problem: Estraven's narrative
- The problem
of the body: Estraven in kemmer
- Genly Ai
"sublimation": he initiates an abstract
discussion of "isolation and loneliness"
recites a poem:
is the left hand of darkness
darkness the right hand of light.
are one, life and death, lying
like lovers in kemmer,
hands joined together,
the end and the way.
- Genly Ai
and Estraven hear a different poem
asks: "Tell me, how does the other sex of your race
differ from yours?"
- Genly Ai
tries to account for gender difference on earth, then
women are "more alien to me than you are"
Sexual tension and the bridge of difference: Genly Ai's narrative
about sex between single-sexed and two-sexed humans
face looks as "soft" as a woman's
tension, friendship, love: the bridge of difference
is Le Guin's formula from valuing, but also negotiating
between, the radical differences between cultures?
for "mankind" (too abstract) nor for one other person
(too singular and contingent), but both for mankind
and out of love for one other
Guin's problematic humanistic solution to radical cultural
the noble Indian: the example of "Tonto"
- The primacy
of the individual: it's so Western
- Does the
acceptance of radical difference presume the superiority
and power of those who accept? What if your culture is
weak and embattled?
- Is humanism
too species specific? Can't we be kind without being humane?
Lone Ranger and Tonto
The Lone Ranger