LeGuin, Ursula: The Dispossessed (Study Guide)

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Study Guide for Ursula LeGuin: The Dispossessed (1974) Introduction After World War I, the writing of utopian fiction gradually declined, until thegenre almost disappeared in mid-century, to be replaced by dystopias (descriptions of ultimately evil places) like George Orwell`s Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1948). However, in the mid-seventies therewas a spate of new utopias written by Americans inspired by the upsurge ofsocial reform begun in the late sixties and continuing into the new decade. Themost famous examples are Ernest Callenbach`s Ecotopia, Samuel R.Delany`s Triton, and this novel, though there are many otherexamples. What differentiated these new utopias was their attempt to evade the traditional criticisms of the old utopias like Edward Bellamy`s Looking Backward: that they were static, boring, and unattainable. After all, utopia means good place, not perfect place. There seemed no reason to believe that all of humanity`s problems could be solved through improved social organization; but it seemed possible that some of them might be. It is important to understand that one of the main functions of utopias, sincePlato and Thomas More, has been to function as a critique of existing society,providing a kind of benchmark against which the flaws of real cultures can bemore clearly revealed. Their proposals for reform have not always been seriouslymeant. The original paperback edition of The Dispossessed bore on its cover this description: The magnificent epic of an ambiguous ...

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