Political Theory, Science Fiction, and Utopian Literature

Political Theory, Science Fiction, and Utopian Literature : Ursula K. Le Guin and The Dispossessed

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Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed is of interest to political theorists partly because of its association with anarchism and partly because it is thought to represent a turning point in the history of utopian/dystopian political thought and literature and of science fiction. Published in 1974, it marked a revival of utopianism after decades of dystopian writing. According to this widely accepted view The Dispossessed represents a new kind of literary utopia, which Tom Moylan calls a 'critical utopia.' The present work challenges this reading of The Dispossessed and its place in the histories of utopian/dystopian literature and science fiction. It explores the difference between traditional literary utopia and novels and suggests that The Dispossessed is not a literary utopia but a novel about utopianism in politics. Le Guin's concerns have more to do with those of the novelists of the 19th century writing in the tradition of European Realism than they do with the science fiction or utopian literature. It also claims that her theory of the novel has an affinity with the ancient Greek tragedy.
This implies that there is a conservatism in Le Guin's work as a creative writer, or as a novelist, which fits uneasily with her personal commitment to anarchism.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 330 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739122835
  • 9780739122839
  • 1,183,161

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Table of Contents Chapter 2 Dedication Chapter 3 Acknowledgments Chapter 4 1 Introduction Chapter 5 2 Science Fiction and the History of Utopian Literature: H.G. Wells, Zamyatin, and Le Guin Chapter 6 3 Le Guin's Dialectical Approach to Questions of Philosophy and Politics Chapter 7 4 Science and Progress in the Writings of Zamyatin and Le Guin Chapter 8 5 Le Guin'sThe Dispossessed and Utopian Literature Chapter 9 6 Politics and Literature in the Writings of Le Guin Chapter 10 7 Ethics in the Writings of Le Guin Chapter 11 8 Anarchist Politics in Zamyatin and Le Guin Chapter 12 9 Conservatism in the Writings of Le Guin Chapter 13 10 Conclusion: Le Guin and Radical Politics Today Chapter 14 Bibliography Chapter 15 Index
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Review quote

Burns offers a meticulously researched book that makes a somewhat maverick contribution. Science Fiction Studies, March 2009 Perhaps the most detailed and certainly one of the most widely researched studies yet done on Le Guin's masterpiece. -- Carl Freedman, professor and director of graduate studies, Louisiana State University The Dispossessed may well be the most widely read book in the United States to seriously approach the question of what an anarchist society might look like...Both of these volumes are solid pieces of scholarship, well grounded in the relevant literature...Students of utopian studies would find both rewarding. Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, Spring 2011
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About Tony Burns

Anthony Burns is associate professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
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