LITR 5439 Literary & Historical Utopias

Instructor's Presentation

Ursula K. Le Guin,

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)


1960s as period of hippie & Jesus-freak communes

1970s as period of great utopian fiction

(most of these texts are too long for summer school)

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974); Always Coming Home (1985)

Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (1975)

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)

Samuel R. Delany, Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia (1976)


William Boatman, reference librarian for Neumann Library (for about 1 more month)

B.A. Drama & M.A. English, University of Iowa; Master's in Library Science

Owned used book store in Minneapolis(?)--much science fiction to be processed!

Avid reader and supporter of Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin = science fiction writer most respected in university English departments, which reflexively dismiss most sf as realm of unschooled writing, gee-whiz O-wow intellects, undiscriminating fandom


Ursula K. Le Guin official website


Reasons for Le Guin's prestige:

writer of high integrity and ingenuity, quotable, depth

mythic scale corresponds to much 20c criticism

gender issues--many of her protagonists are male, but books like The Left Hand of Darkness explore alternative genders with great power

environmental / ecological concerns

children's author




E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973)

important influence on "slow-growth" or "no-growth" policies of 1970s: Jerry Brown, Jimmy Carter, the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth

repudiated by hyper-growth policies of 1980s, Reagan, Clinton, The Club for Growth

Houston projected to grow by 3 million people by 2025 (like adding two San Antonios or 1 Milwaukee to city).

World population app. 7 billion now, 10 billion by 2100

consumption levels unsustainable, old visions of living on other planets still more than a century off

Schumacher sites on Research links

Decentralization, de-industrialization; cf. Gandhi

'swadeshi', which, in effect, means local self-sufficiency




Plato's Republic as utopia of scarcity and utopia of plenty




Frank Lloyd Wright, Falling Water