Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction (Summer 2012) discussion

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Unit IX: LeGuin > The Left Hand of Darkness

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message 1: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay so I've started this...

I meant to read this years ago and for some reason never did.


message 2: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments How far are you?

I'm finding the anthropological style very interesting. The hobbyist in me keeps on guessing what influences she is drawing from.


message 3: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments It's slower going than the Bradbury, but infinitely deeper. I'm about halfway through and just getting my first ideas for an essay.

How'd you-all do on the last essay?


message 4: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments 4. What about you, Hilandmum? This is a much tougher read, for certainly.


message 5: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I was amazed I got a 4.5 because three of the five essays I graded were on the same general topic mine was. Then again, I only had comments from three other students.


message 6: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Awesome :)

Hopefully not too much of a spoiler - I'm very little in - but I think I can see Gilman's lineage here. I'm also kinda thankful for the Introduction to Sociology course I took on Coursera earlier, too.


message 7: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I've always loved - from what little I've read of her works - her use of anthropological worldbuilding, but in this novel, the "alien" of the other societies she is drawing from so far to me is just veneer to highlight her societal criticism. I wonder if I'm just misreading it, though. I'm only page 18 out of a certain e-book copy I got.


message 8: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments It remains a veneer, although a well-crafted one. You haven't read about the people of Orgoreyn yet. Different society, similar veneer.


message 9: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Ok, thank you :) Sounds seriously interesting...


message 10: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I knew one guy who said I would likely not understand this book, and I think he was right, but I'm still giving it a try, dang it.

Oh, and her Taoist influence is pretty obvious, too.


message 11: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Must confess I am totally lost at the second part of the book. It seems almost... too overt? Straight narrative?

There is a reversal in structure, though, so far.


message 12: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Might be useful to someone, Le Guin's interview about Tao :)

http://www.embracethemoon.com/perspec...


message 13: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Ok, I've got a draft of an essay. How's everyone else doing?

Let's just say that by the end I almost wanted to cry... the certain symbolism was almost too personal to bear, too.


message 14: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I haven't started the book yet... I know, I know..bad of me! I'll be reading it today and tomorrow if I need more time.


message 15: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I've only got to chapter 3 so far :( Which is a shame because I really want to get stuck in - it's caught my attention, thankfully - just having a mad busy week going back to work and the kids are NOT in the mood to play nicely whilst I read. :(


message 16: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Good luck to everyone :)


message 17: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I thought I knew what I was going to write about, but at the halfway mark, the book took a major turn, from a socio-political comparison of two of the civilizations on a world to a buddy road trip!

Yes, some of the themes have carried over, mostly in the discussions the two have on their travels across the Frozen Tundra, I mean the icey glacier (sorry - the Frozen Tundra is in one of the novels I'm working on).

Xiri, you're right about the symbolism, though.


message 18: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Hilandmum wrote: "I thought I knew what I was going to write about, but at the halfway mark, the book took a major turn, from a socio-political comparison of two of the civilizations on a world to a buddy road trip!..."

Your novel sounds interesting :)

Probably a stupid question, but had you thought of the first part as an "Alice" type of a satire or grotesque as well? That was my idea.


message 19: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I think you're right!


message 20: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay done and finished... I have an idea what to write, but I'm sure the reviewers will just think it's obvious! :)


message 21: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Okay done and finished... I have an idea what to write, but I'm sure the reviewers will just think it's obvious! :)"

Mind sharing? I've written on a pretty obvious one too :) To me, anyway - as I almost always tend to focus on the err... obvious stuff.


message 22: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I'm going to write about how Estraven is the keystone. The keystone is the part of the arch that holds up the whole thing and is integral to it's structure. It is the strongest stone. He was the integral part to the alliance between Winter and the Ekumen. He proved his strength over and over again as he survived exile, rescued Ai and then trekked with him across the forbidding waste. Just as the keystone is set with blood, his blood was shed at the end.

Too obvious?


message 23: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "I'm going to write about how Estraven is the keystone. The keystone is the part of the arch that holds up the whole thing and is integral to it's structure. It is the strongest stone. He was the..."

Not to me. How about the Gethen being reverse of the Earth, which was mine?


message 24: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Oh... interesting..in what way?


message 25: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Well, first, whereas Earth is pretty much out of Ice Age, Winter is only beginning to probably move towards getting out of it (BTW, lots of correlations to the Sustainability course in the book!); human society majorly is pretty much based upon sexes / genders and someone who would be intersexed would be a freak, whereas in Gethen it's reverse - someone who has a single sex all the time is a "pervert". Their clocks are counterclockwise. I also took Estraven's country to be more like the USA / Europe vs that of Soviet Union like other country (which name I can't remember), mostly characterized by it being to the west yet Ai notes that he feels as if he is moving to the east - in that sense, the poles too are kinda reversed - and their all-too-alike to gulags system. Also, the society that emphasizes dualities vs one that tends to kind of embrace middle way or synthesis, a principle in Taoism.

I hope this makes any sense at all :-s


message 26: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Oh yeah! I think that's a great observation.


message 27: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments I think I'll focus on the dichotomies in the book - between Estraven and Ai, between Karhide and Orgoreyn, between the right hand of light and the left hand of darkness, etc.


message 28: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Hilandmum wrote: "I think I'll focus on the dichotomies in the book - between Estraven and Ai, between Karhide and Orgoreyn, between the right hand of light and the left hand of darkness, etc."

Good luck!


message 29: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I am so stuck, really struggling to get through it "mindfully" - I just want to read it as a story! But no time for that. Still about 20% to read.

I want to write something about the theme of "acceptance" but I can't tie it together yet.


message 30: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Caroline wrote: "I am so stuck, really struggling to get through it "mindfully" - I just want to read it as a story! But no time for that. Still about 20% to read.

I want to write something about the theme of "acc..."


Nice topic.


message 31: by Seawood (new)

Seawood It's coming, slowly. Took a combination of relaxation breathing (yeeeees....taking on two other courses whilst finishing this and a fitness competition was *such* a clever idea, wasn't it!) whilst walking through the pouring rain on the school run, but I finally had one of those "click" moments. I'm not confident I can spit out the idea in 300 words, though. Still, I guess I've passed now, haven't I...doesn't matter hugely if it's a 3.

I have to say I did like this book much more than Chronicles - the imagery was beautiful and compelling, whereas I found Bradbury rather overblown. It was harder to keep up with all the names and places and new terminology, though.


message 32: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Oh, in case anyone would like an additional short read, a copy of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas can be found here. Not sure if it counts as legal, but... well, up to anyone is who interested or not.


message 33: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay here's what I wrote, though I'm really unhappy with the writing.. :(

Any comments are appreciated!


As the book begins, Ai is at the ceremony of an arch joining two piers (p. 4). The coming together of the Ekumen with the peoples of the world called Winter can be seen through this symbolism of an arch with Estraven as the keystone.

A keystone is also defined as "the central principle...on which all else depends". (loc 511918) Estraven is central to the story and it is on him that the coming together of everything depends. He was the first and only one to recognize the importance of Ai Genry's visit. Estraven was willing to lose everything to facilitate the joining of Karhide with the Ekumen. Time and again he rescued the alliance from failure and showed his strength.

His strength enabled him to survive when he was exhaled from Karhide. When it looked as though Genry would be rejected in Karhide, he tried to facilitate the alliance happening in Gorenhering. When all seemed lost in Gorenhering and Ai was sent to prison, it was Estraven who again saved everything. Without Estraven's rescue Ai would have died and the mission to join Winter to the Ekumen would have failed.

Estraven was even the key in bringing Ai to a more complete understanding of the people of Winter as friendship and eventual love developed between them.

As explained to Ai Genry, the keystones of Karhide must all be set with blood, originally human blood, or "...without the blood bond the arch would fall." p. 5 Estraven cements his place as keystone and gives his life by being shot, his lifeblood given to bond the 'arch' between the two cultures.


message 34: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Okay here's what I wrote, though I'm really unhappy with the writing.. :(

Any comments are appreciated!


As the book begins, Ai is at the ceremony of an arch joining two piers (p. 4). The coming ..."


Sounds sweet to me, but those who are more experienced would probably help more.


message 35: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Sounds good to me! Mine is really weak this week. Hey ho.


message 36: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments If you have not watched the lectures for the unit you and you are interested in languages, there are some really interesting points here. All I can say that my language is plenty different in certain aspects from English :)


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