Tuesday 2nd May 2017, 8:00pm
Session 179: “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” by Ursula Le Guin – Kunsthalle Zürich
For this ninth and final Theory Tuesdays session held at the Kunsthalle Zürich as a part of the exhibition “Speak, Lokal”, Melanie Matthieu and Riikka Tauriainen selected the 1986 essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” by Ursula Le Guin from the book “Dancing at the Edge of the World” (Grove Press, 1989).
In “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, Ursula Le Guin presents the new theory that the first tool was a carrier bag for food rather than a weapon. The “carrier bag theory” lends weight to women being the earliest creators of tools. Le Guin draws a connection between the story of origins to the writing of fiction. Contrary to the old stories of a hero going off to battle, Le Guin posits the novel as an ultimately feminine form, mainly because it refuses the notion of a “hero”. Le Guin maintains that, “the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. . . A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”
Ursula Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2015, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. Her most recent publications are “The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin” (2012) and “Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story” (2015).