Talk:Ursula K. Le Guin

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Featured articleUrsula K. Le Guin is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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The text of the entry was: Did you know ... that Ursula K. Le Guin once rejected an offer from Hayao Miyazaki to adapt her Earthsea series for the screen, but changed her mind after watching Miyazaki's film My Neighbor Totoro?
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Addition to the "American Anarchist" Category[edit]

Hello Wikipedians, I'm a new user and I made an edit to this page on May 20 that has since been removed. I added Le Guin to the category of American anarchists. User Vanamonde93 reversed this decision and said, "Le Guin has neither identified explicitly as an anarchist, nor been described as one. This category isn't appropriate." I find this puzzling because Le Guin is regularly critically analyzed as an anarchist writer. On Le Guin's personal website, she republished a critical assessment of her work through postmodern anarchism, and commented that the article "let [her] see aspects of my own older works, especially Left Hand of Darkness, in a new light." Upon Le Guin's death, Crimethinc, a well-known anarchist publication, published an article by Margaret Killjoy called "We Will Remember Freedom: Why It Matters that Ursula K. Le Guin Was an Anarchist" in which Killjoy writes, "To be clear, Ursula Le Guin didn’t, as I understand it, call herself an anarchist. I asked her about this. She told me that she didn’t call herself an anarchist because she didn’t feel that she deserved to—she didn’t do enough. I asked her if it was OK for us to call her one. She said she’d be honored." This exchange is documented in the video recording of their conversation. I think it's safe to say that if Ursula K. Le Guin didn't self-identify as an anarchist, she has been described as one and was willing to accept that label. I'd like her to be added to the list of American anarchists. Preparemyguillotine (talk) 19:37, 23 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Preparemyguillotine: Thanks for bringing this to the talk page. You make a decent argument. My concern, though, is that in the more mainstream sources I've read (scholarly reviews of her work) she is frequently described as someone who explores anarchism, and was influenced by anarchism; but I don't see her described as an anarchist herself. Anarchism is a frequently misunderstood philosophy (or set of philosophies); anarchist groups tend to be on the fringe of US political discourse, and as a result, have a vested interest in "claiming" a well-known writer as one of their own. For a category such as this, I'd really like to see more independent, highly reliable sources (preferably scholarly sources) using this description. Vanamonde (Talk) 21:04, 23 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Vanamonde93: I've found numerous scholarly works that venture further than to say she was influenced by anarchism, and actually claim that she was an anarchist writing intentionally anarchist fiction. I'll link some articles for you to explore:

"True to both her novelistic craft and her anarchist political convictions, Le Guin succeeds in embodying in The Dispossessed an extraordinarily imaginative and sophisticated utopian vision..." — Laurence Davis: “Morris, Wilde, and Le Guin on Art, Work, and Utopia” in Utopian Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, 2009, pp. 213–248. "The themes of postmodern anarchism are clearly present in her work." — Lewis Call: "Postmodern Anarchism in the Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin" in SubStance, vol. 36, no. 2, 2007, pp. 87–105. "Le Guin has produced a narrative structure, a configuration of voices, consistent with her politics, both feminist and anarchist, befitting her vision of an ideal society." — Jim Jose: "Reflections on the Politics of Le Guin's Narrative Shifts" in Science Fiction Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 1991, pp. 180–197. The Dispossessed "reveals the author's broad and sympathetic understanding of anarchist theory." — Victor Urbanowicz: "Personal and Political in 'The Disposessed'" in Science Fiction Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 1978, pp. 110–117. I think it is safe to say that many scholars in peer-reviewed academic journals believe that Le Guin is an anarchist.

@Preparemyguillotine: Fair enough. I've added the category myself. Two unrelated suggestions, since your account history suggests you are new to Wikipedia; first, you should sign your talk page posts; second, while you are entitled to describe yourself how you please on your userpage, the description you have at the moment is likely to lead to some folks accusing you of having some sort of agenda. Just food for thought. Welcome to Wikipedia. Vanamonde (Talk) 04:41, 24 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Sorry, but what academic source describes Le Guin herself as an anarchist? I see examples of sympathism in the Killjoy interview and discussion of anarchist-sympathetic views in the The Dispossessed, which indisputibly has anarchist themes, but does not necessarily reflect Le Guin's ideology categorically. The standard for adding a biographical category is WP:COPDEF, i.e., that it needs to be a defining characteristic commonly and consistently associated with the subject. Usually if it would not warrant mention in the lede, it is probably not "defining". czar 13:01, 22 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I've long since given up on understanding the minutiae of when biographical categories are appropriate. The sources support the notion that Le Guin has considerable sympathy for anarchist views. I don't particularly care whether the category is used, as we've analyzed her writing in considerable detail. The ideal category would be Category:American writers exploring anarchism, or equivalent, but if it exists I don't know of it. Vanamonde (Talk) 16:40, 22 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    In literary studies I would say she is quite commonly thought of as an anarchist writer, particularly regarding The Disposessed. (Honestly, if you manage to talk about that book without mentioning anarchism, I think you may have missed the point.) I believe that maintaining a hard distinction between "a writer" and "a writer's work" is unhelpfully splitting hairs contrary to typical scholarly practice - to bring in an outside example, you'll see a lot of "Chaucer, the self-insert character in The House of Fame" vs "Chaucer, the writer of The House of Fame", but not so much "Geoffrey Chaucer's ideas" vs "the ideas in The Canterbury Tales". But in addition to this general point, I actually find it quite strange that Le Guin hasn't been described as anarchist in the lede. -- asilvering (talk) 17:43, 22 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Also: I did a sanity check for this on the nearest English literature professor and got a "but she's so anarchist!?" in response. That is an extremely scientific and representativeTM sample of one (1), of course, but nevertheless, I do think that's likely to be the standard response. -- asilvering (talk) 17:47, 22 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I acknowledged The Dispossessed above but her oeuvre and life is so much wider than that. Something similar could be said of Oscar Wilde and anarchism.

    I actually find it quite strange that Le Guin hasn't been described as anarchist in the lede.

    I think that's the crux here. It hasn't been mentioned because it ostensibly isn't a defining personal characteristic. She is far better known in relation to feminism and Taoism than anarchism since those themes are more pervasive in her works and have received more coverage. It would be odd to say that anarchism had a strong influence on her work on the basis of The Dispossessed and The Day Before the Revolution alone. czar 02:55, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I think anarchism underlies a lot of her writing (The Eye of the Heron and Always Coming Home are also clear examples - the first one quite explicitly; the second one more implicitly). But I also think she explores anarchism as an attractive but problematic idea, rather than promotes anarchism. (But that, I suppose, is actually true of any serious anarchist.) Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular - but three things: 1. I don't think it is true to say anarchism is only a theme in a couple of particular works (one of which is generally considered her most important novel). 2. I am not convinced she would belong in an "anarchist" category. 3. I do think "exploring anarchism" is sufficiently central to her ouevre to belong in the leade. (talk) 11:45, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    What reliable sources are there that discuss anarchism as a theme in her work? I think if this discussion is going to end up in changes to the article, we need to start bringing in sources. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:24, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    She has mentioned the inspiration she's drawn from anarchism, particularly for the Dispossessed, in interviews; and analysis of anarchist themes in that book and Eye of the Heron are mentioned in Rochelle 2009 and White 1999, among others. The Lewis Call source cited in the article is entirely about anarchism. For sources not cited in the article, there's this. My concern is about the jump from "writer exploring anarchism" to "anarchist". Le Guin's exploration of gender is widely attested to, but we don't call her a feminist, either. I'm undecided as yet about the category, but I would oppose introducing the descriptor in the lead. Vanamonde (Talk) 15:15, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @ I'm with you on all counts. Re: #2, I'm not convinced she wouldn't belong there either; as far as I can tell, the argument comes down to "how does Wikipedia define the category", which is something I don't care all that much about (whereas I care quite a lot about "is Wikipedia starting a citogenesis incident" and "could this cause harm", neither of which I think are true here). I do care rather more about #3, and think this is a strange omission in this article. I don't think it needs much more in the lede, but the brief mention in She explored alternative political structures in many stories... downplays it, imo. -- asilvering (talk) 17:12, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That sentence currently reads "She explored alternative political structures in many stories, such as in the philosophical short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973) and the anarchist utopian novel The Dispossessed (1974)." How about adding mention of "The Day Before the Revolution" to that sentence -- e.g. "and in the novel The Dispossessed (1974) and the short story "The Day Before the Revolution" (1974), both of which were set in an anarchist utopia"? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 17:31, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This still seems to me like sidestepping the point to me. The effect is to "quarantine" it into particular works, in the same way you might say that a novel was "inspired by a true story" or whatever. Meanwhile feminism, Jung, etc are presented broadly as "a strong influence", without any particular works mentioned. I think that difference in framing matters. -- asilvering (talk) 18:58, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The framing is intentional. The examples of political structures in her writing are given to flesh it out, not to quarantine it. The sources make it abundantly clear that Jung, and feminist critiques, were large outside influences in her work. Anarchism is not described this way; sources analyze her description of political structures in detail, but overt mentions of anarchist influence are few and far between. Her exploration of political structure is far wider than just anarchism; Omelas is not described as an anarchist story, for instance, but it's probably the best known work on political structures after the Dispossessed. At the moment, this gets more detail in the lead than any other single influence or theme: I disagree that more is needed. Vanamonde (Talk) 20:30, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, I'm sure the framing is intentional. I can disagree with it, and disagree with the idea that this "fleshes it out" instead of "quarantining" it, whether the framing is intentional or not. -- asilvering (talk) 11:05, 24 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

My take is that if the current, nonspecific framing is most representative of the sources, then it would indicate that Wikipedia is not describing Le Guin as "an anarchist" as a defining trait. If the article needs to include more depth on her politics, that is the discussion and editing that should happen first. (E.g., that anarchism was a major theme of her work and personal politics beyond isolated works.) If that happens, only then we would discuss whether that coverage requires greater mention in the lede—which should aways reflect the current article—and, accordingly, the category. But as of now, it's a leap of logic. czar 16:29, 31 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For what it's worth from me; from the one interview i read regarding this, (before this I always assumed her to be an anarchist, she wrote anarchist fiction, she does not say she is not an anarchist, but says, 'I am a bourgeois housewife, I don’t practise anarchism'. Now one could replace 'anarchism' here with 'feminism' but I do not think one would say she was not a feminist. As far as it goes also she writes anarchist fiction, her most well known work is an anarchist work, and anecdotally, before this conversation i always had her catagorized internally as an anarchist and the people i asked around me understand her as this too. I for all these reasons would put her in the catagory as self-identification is always not the important thing, as it is not with say; adding a person to WP:Anarchsim or adding an author to, we would find that more often than not people who would perhaps not Also I think it does not matter that much because catagories are dumb and only really exist to sate some peoples desires towards creating lists and ordering things as an activity. so yea. either way i guess but this was my perception. SP00KYtalk 23:33, 31 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's less about quoting how she personally identified and more about summarizing how reliable, secondary sources discuss the traits that typically define her. In all the volumes of material written about Le Guin, we need sources that show anarchism to be a major theme of her oeuvre or life. If the connection is that obvious, based on the anecdotes above, it shouldn't be hard to show. czar 15:53, 9 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, my copy of 'The Word for World is Forest' says in the front of it ''It brings into sharp focus several of it's author's enduring concerns, and draws on teh same intellectual resources that illuminate her wider work: notably anthropology, anarchism, feminism and taoism'. SP00KYtalk 18:41, 9 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is actually a perfect example of why we shouldn't include the category. We don't describe her as a feminist, or an anthropologist, or a Taoist, in the text, and I see no argument for doing so. I see an "American Taoists" category, that should probably go for similar reasons; we have a "feminist writers" category, but that's rather different than saying "Feminist", IMHO. Vanamonde (Talk) 00:04, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This argument feels bizarre to me. It seems like if we found that text in a reliable source, we could easily use it to describe her as all those things in the text. Loki (talk) 01:33, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't follow. My point is we have sources describing her as a writer influenced by feminism, or by anarchism; not as a feminist, or anarchist. You're saying we could use those terms if we had sources, but that's besides the point; we don't. Vanamonde (Talk) 01:36, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Whatever dude. have your ridiculous definition mongering. it is not that important and this all is more than a little bit pathetic.. SP00KYtalk 15:10, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with you on this point. But that's exactly why I find it odd that the lede says Cultural anthropology, Taoism, feminism, and the writings of Carl Jung all had a strong influence on Le Guin's work, and doesn't mention anarchism until She explored alternative political structures in many stories[...]. -- asilvering (talk) 16:16, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is the english language 'Sci-Fi MasterWorks' edition by the way. It is probably the most common edition in english as it is the one you will find in the book stores. SP00KYtalk 15:11, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Jumping in here to add that I also think that anarchism is a pretty obviously defining characteristic of her and her work, though I don't have any new sources about that. Loki (talk) 21:52, 9 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Update: while it's not a literary source, Jacobin is green at WP:RSP and this article describes the blend of anarchism, Taoism, and feminism that permeates Le Guin’s worldview. Loki (talk) 01:36, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Polish ancestry[edit]

According to the article about LeGuin's mother Theodora Kroeber, "... her parents, Phebe Jane Kracaw (née Johnston) and Charles Emmett Kracaw, were owners of a general store. According to her family, Charles' family were recent Polish migrants ...". This article is well sourced, but it is not clear if the Polish ancestry is specifically supported by any source. Being named Kracaw should perhaps count for something. Martin Rundkvist (talk) 20:38, 28 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Date of photo is probably incorrect[edit]

The photo of Le Guin on the article (File:Ursula Le Guin (3551195631) (cropped).jpg) is dated to 2009, according to the caption. This date comes from the Oregon State University's Flickr page linked in the image description. I believe this date is incorrect. The picture is credited to Marian Wood Kolisch, who died in 2008. I suspect the 2009 date might be a mislabeling by OSU, or the date that they digitized the photo, not the date that it was actually taken.

I bring this up because I noticed that the copy of The Wind's Twelve Quarters that I checked out from my local library contains that photo (lower-resolution, but still the same photo, and credited to Kolisch). The copyright page says "Reissued in Perennial 2004", so I believe it must have been taken no later than 2004. I have been unable to find the actual date from searching the Internet though. -- cathartid - talk 04:54, 25 August 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks for raising this; it does seem incorrect, but likewise, I cannot track down the photo's origins. I have commented out the caption for the time being. We don't have a ton of photos for Le Guin, and this is certainly the best of them; it would be a pity to remove it. I'll keep digging, and hopefully some talk page watchers will too. Vanamonde (Talk) 05:33, 25 August 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
When you say "it would be a pity to remove it" are you suggesting that you think the photo might be nonfree because OSU might not have had the right to license it?
Anyway, as far as I can tell, the original physical copy of the photo is probably in the possession of the Oregon Historical Society, so I guess contacting them might be the best way to get information on the date of the photo and clarification of the copyright status. See the OHS catalog entry and the overview of the Marian Wood Kolisch collection. -- cathartid - talk 01:32, 26 August 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I don't have reason to think the licensing is incorrect, but there's an argument to be made that we should use a dateable image. The catalog entry isn't loading for me; is it for this image, or for the collection? If the latter, how were you able to deduce that that was the image source? Vanamonde (Talk) 04:56, 26 August 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I guess their server is down now, but the catalog entry was for the collection, and linked to the overview of the collection which I also linked. The overview page lists "LeGuin" (twice) in the "Portraits" column, among many other photo subjects. Since this is a collection of Marian Wood Kolisch's work, and photo we are interested in is credited to Kolisch, I thought it was very likely that the photo is in this collection. It looks like Kolisch could have taken more photos of Le Guin over the many years that she was an active photographer, and Kolisch's work was split up amongst multiple institutions (Portland Art Museum has a different photo, but I could not find the one we have there), so I am not so sure now. However, this site run by the OHS says "The majority of [Kolisch's] photographs are in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum, with a smaller selection, along with negatives and interviews, in the Davies Family Research Library at the Oregon Historical Society" and doesn't mention other institutions, so I guess there is still a good chance that OHS has it. -- cathartid - talk 06:43, 26 August 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I contacted the Oregon Historical Society Research Library ( This is what I wrote:

Extended content


I am seeking information about a specific photograph of Ursula K. Le Guin, which was taken by Marian Wood Kolisch. The image is on the Oregon State University's Flickr page at , the Wikipedia page for Le Guin at , and it also seems to be used as the author portrait in almost every recent printing of books by Le Guin.

I am specifically looking for the date that the photo was taken, so that it can be labeled properly on Wikipedia. The OSU's Flickr page is dated May 21, 2009, but I doubt that is the date of the original photograph because Kolisch died in 2008.

I believe the original physical photograph (in the form of a negative, I assume) might be in your Marian Wood Kolisch collection, based on the listing at , though I am not sure (LeGuin is listed multiple times, but it is possible that this specific photo is somewhere else).

So, if it is possible, I would like to know whether the original physical copy of this photograph in your possession (and labeled with the date), and if so, the date that it was taken. If it is not in your possession, would you know who might have it?


[my name]

And they responded with:

The sheet of negatives looks like it notes 8/95. There are a few other dates but I think those refer to later processing/touchup.

So it seems that the best available information indicates that the photo was taken in August 1995. @Vanamonde93: would this be good enough to update the caption on the article and the image descriptions on Commons? Does this date need to be cited somehow? cathartid - talk 00:33, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Cathartid: to be quite honest we're moving outside my realm of knowledge. For an image hosted on commons, I suggest you contact the commons volunteer response team [1], and see what they say. We'd want the description updated there before making the change here. Vanamonde (Talk) 02:54, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I emailed info-commons for help, and was told that Commons does not have a verifiability policy (commons:Commons:Verifiability), so I could just update it, which I have done. cathartid - talk 15:17, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sounds good, thank you for seeing this through. Vanamonde (Talk) 18:13, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nothing to add. Just wanted to thank and congratulate you on doing this good and tedious work. Thank you. x :) SP00KYtalk 18:08, 21 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]