Dreams and Shadows: On Ursula Le Guin's 'A Wizard of Earthsea'

Episode 64 · January 22nd, 2020 · 1 hr 17 mins

About this Episode

In her National Book Award acceptance speech in 2014, Ursula K. Le Guin intimated that, far from being superseded by digital technology, fantastic fiction has never been more important than it is about to become. Soon, she prophesied, "we will need writers who can remember freedom -- poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality." In this episode, Phil and JF plumb the prophetic depths of one of her most famous books, A Wizard of Earthsea. A discussion of the novel's style and lore leads us into the politics and metaphysics of fantasy as developed by Le Guin and her predecessor, J. R. R. Tolkien. In the end, we realize that fantasy is not the literary ghetto it's been made out to be, but the sine qua non of all fiction.


John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
Heidegger, "On the Origin of the Work of Art"
Beowulf, An Anglo-Saxon epic poem
Weird Studies, episode 41 -- On Speculative Fiction, with Matt Cardin
Weird Studies, episode 61 -- Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'
Weird Studies, episode 62: Like 'The Shining,' But With Nuns: On 'Black Narcissus'
The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes (translated by J.F.'s mentor, David Staines)
Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte d'Arthur
Lewis Carroll, British fantasist
Ursula K. Le Guin's acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, 2014
David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and A Treatise of Human Nature