Ambiguous understandings: critical interpretations of utopia in Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed 1969 - 2011

Aisling Blackmore

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

977 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis seeks to understand attitudes towards utopia in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, by studying the patterns of response to Ursula Le Guin’s two utopian novels The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed from 1969 to 2011. It constructs a meta-analysis of critical, as well as popular, responses and analyses of these novels during the period of study. The diverse readings provide insight into patterns of reception and response, and reveal a consistent philosophy of partnership within Le Guin’s two texts.

Chapter One provides an overview of Le Guin’s reception by various communities, and the reception of the two core novels. This chapter will establish that Le Guin and her novels have broad appeal which is not restricted by reader type or the period of reading.

Chapter Two is a critical literature review of scholarship on utopia and utopianism throughout the period of study. The chapter seeks to understand how these concepts have evolved, and locate the two novels within this utopian tradition.

Chapter Three addresses the engagement with gender and sexuality in both novels, and how readers have discussed these themes as utopian, because of the social construction of gender and sex roles in most readings of both novels.

 Chapter Four engages with the presentation of political systems, ideology, and ecology by Le Guin in The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. It suggests that these issues are perceived by readers as hinging on utopian notions of freedom.

The conclusion I present is that Le Guin is a utopianist, trying to educate her readers through her fiction. She successfully encourages readers to reflect on their own world and situation by creating utopian novels, but the themes readers identify in the novels are in general consistent over time. What differs is the importance assigned to these themes in creating utopian change.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Ambiguous understandings: critical interpretations of utopia in Le Guin's<em> The Left Hand of Darkness</em> and <em>The Dispossessed</em> 1969 - 2011'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this