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ENG237H1 (11)
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Left Hand of Darkness NOTES.pdf

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Department
English
Course
ENG237H1
Professor
Mike Johnstone
Semester
Winter

Description
Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness Reading Notes - examination of a sexless androgyny in science fiction - Le Guin describes the book as a “thought experiment” to explore a society without men or women, where individuals share the biological and emotional makeup of both genders - set in the “Hainish” universe - describes the interplanetary expansion started by the first race of humanity on the planet Hain, which leads to the 83-world collective called the Ekumen - it takes place many years in the future - GenlyAi is an envoy from the Ekumen who journeys to Winter (Gethen) to convince the citizens to join the Ekumen - Winter is: - always cold (to humans) - citizens are “ambisexual” - citizens spend most of their time as asexual “potentials”; anyone who is always one sex or the other is a “pervert” - they only adopt genders once a month, during a period of sexual receptiveness and high fertility known as kemmer - they become either male or female depending on the context and relationships - these conditions have affected the development of civilization: for example, there is no war - social aggression and continuous sexual capacity are both attributes of men and no other mammals—so perhaps this is why there is no war on Winter? - or perhaps the lack of masculinity leads to a lack of war? - Gethenians are not very aggressive - the climate could also be a reason for the lack of war - the dominant factor on Winter really is the winter, not their sexuality - “I really don’t see how anyone could put much stock in victory or glory after he has spent a winter on Winter, and seen the face of the Ice” - GenlyAi, a Terran native, is sent to Gethen to represent the Ekumen - he makes little progress during the first while of his stay in Karhide, a Gethenian society, but interests the Prime Minister of the area, Estraven - the night before his audience with the king,Ai begins to doubt Estraven—something about him disturbs Genly - the next day he learns that Estraven has been accused of treason and has fled to Orgoreyn, the neighbouring society - the king decides not to join the Ekumen - Genly goes to Orgoreyn - it is different from Karhide in many ways - shifgrethor, the unspoken social rules and formal courtesy that rule Karhide, seem to have little importance in Orgoreyn - rather society is organized logically and practically - Ai is provided with comfortable living quarters and asked many questions - he presents his invitation before a board of governors - however he senses that all is not right, and Estraven warns him
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