Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Ursula Le Guin - An Unstoppable Predilection For Alternatives

'And what is critical consciousness', asks Edward Said at the conclusion of his classic essay 'Travelling Theory' (1982), 'if not an unstoppable  predilection for alternatives?'  For Said, critical consciousness - as he found  it exemplified in figures as various as Vico,  Swift, Auerbach, Foucault and Adorno - was characterised chiefly by an openness to the transitory, the Other, the fugitive, the evanescent in human experience and human practice.  Criticism should be restless, dialectical, reflexive, forever capable not only of reinterpreting the world but also itself, of biting the hand that feeds it, of historicising or displacing its own most cherished positions or nostrums.

This 'worldliness' was also what attracted Said to some of the literary writers of whom he was most fond - Conrad or Lampedusa.  Such a worldliness was also a characteristic of the great American writer Ursula K Le Guin, whose death has been announced today.  Too often pigeonholed as a 'science-fiction' writer, Le Guin has used various genres as fictional laboratories for the dialectical testing of versions of Utopia, over a very long and illustrious career.   Would we had more  like her.

Here is an essay she wrote for a new edition of  Thomas  More's Utopia published by Verso in 2017:

A War Without End by Ursula K. Le Guin

Though even Harold Bloom has generously praised  Le Guin as a great stylist and innovator, it has surely been Fredric Jameson, of the major critics now working, who has given the most attention to Le Guin.  His omniverous and affirmative Marxism was open to Le Guin from early in her career.  Here is an essay of his from 1975:

World Reduction in Le Guin


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