Conceiving an Ecofeminist Utopia

Or to give it its full title, Conceiving an Ecofeminist Utopia: Genre, Gender and Ecology in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home.

Always Coming Home is Le Guin’s one true utopia, although many of her other books have utopian themes. It is a multi-media experience, consisting of stories, songs, plays, poems, recipes, maps and more. If you haven’t encountered it yet I urge you to seek it out. Stuff reading my article.

Ursula Le Guin, Todd Barton and friends making the music of the Kesh, with the instruments of the Kesh. The Kesh, who ‘might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California’, are the subject of Always Coming Home. Photo by Brian Attebery.

If you’re still here… my reading of Always Coming Home examines the feminist and ecological ideas underlying not only the content of the work, but also its form. In doing so it explores the intersection of Le Guin’s feminism and ecologism, which has rarely been discussed to date, and relates this to Le Guin’s critique of utopia as a traditionally masculinist approach to world-building. It argues that in the course of Always Coming Home Le Guin experiments within the genre of utopia, making several innovations that address tensions between utopia and the ecofeminist values of the society she portrays as more perfect than our own.

You can read my article on Always Coming Home here. This is a full length, fully-referenced, peer reviewed academic article appearing in the journal ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment). I endeavoured to make it as readable as possible. You can also hear me talking about my reading of Always Coming Home in this video.

Ursula Le Guin in 1985, the year of the publication of Always Coming Home. Photo by Brian Drake.