Highlighting the 2014-15 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellows

Andrew Ferguson, Le Guin Fellow

Andrew Ferguson, Le Guin Fellow

Editor’s Note: The 2015-16 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is currently open for applications, with a deadline of October 1, 2015.

When Andrew Ferguson came to campus to explore UO’s superb collection of feminist science fiction, he wasn’t expecting to uncover the original manuscript of Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu hidden away in the archives. Although archival materials for Tehanu were what he came looking for, finding and identifying the original manuscript came as a happy surprise.

Ferguson, one of two winners of the 2014-15 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, was in Eugene for ten days in early April to conduct research in the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives for the final chapter of his PhD dissertation. A PhD candidate in English at the University of Virginia, Ferguson works in 20th- and 21st-century literature, media studies, and critical discourses on gender, sexuality, and disability. His biography of R.A. Lafferty is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press Modern Masters of Science Fiction series.

The fourth novel in Le Guin’s Earthsea series, Tehanu, Ferguson says, “represents a surprising departure from the foregoing three books,” transforming “from a largely masculinist quest focusing on heroism and valor, to a largely feminist fantasy reflecting on trauma and disability, in which heroism is notable mostly for its impotence or outright absence.” Ferguson said that by examining manuscripts and correspondence related to Tehanu, he hoped “to track the process of the author during composition and revision, as she opens up her text to uncertainty, and to the unpredictability of transformation—and with it, an alternate mode of heroism, preserving imaginative space to so many so often denied.”

The fellowship is named for literary superstar Ursula K. Le Guin, whose appearance as keynote author at the Center for the Study of Women in Society’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in November 2013 inspired its development.

Sponsored equally by CSWS, Robert D. Clark Honors College, and the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, the award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in the Knight Library. Fellows are selected by a three-person committee consisting of representatives from each of the sponsoring bodies.

The UO is home to the most important archive of feminist science fiction authors in the country. The Knight Library houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson along with Damon Knight, and has recently acquired the papers of James Tiptree, Jr. For more about these collections, visit http://library.uoregon.edu/node/3524.

Jennifer A. Rea was also selected as a 2014-15 Le Guin Fellow. An associate professor of classics at the University of Florida in Gainesville, she plans a research trip to Eugene in October 2015.
Professor Rea’s first book, Legendary Rome (2007), explored the Roman poets’ reinvention of Rome’s legendary past for post-civil war Augustan Rome. Her latest project, Perpetua’s Journey, for Oxford University Press, presents a graphic history of Vibia Perpetua’s prison diary. She will visit Knight Library to complete work on another current book project, Empire without End: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Vergil, which explores why Vergil’s violent foundation story remains relevant in modern science fiction and fantasy, and especially within the fantasy novel Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin.