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When is a Novel not a Novel: When It is Used to Teach Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  Rigsby’s analyses is that they focus on Anarresti institutions and largely ignore A-Io and Thu. Additionally, regardless of the supposed institutional shortcomings, a traditional institutional approach to comparative government fails to prepare introductory students for critical engagement. I would suggest that there is a sufficient amount of information about the institutional foundations of Anarres and A-Io to supplement a more traditional, textbook-drive approach to comparative politics as well as to engage students in a meaningful discussion of the limits of a pure institutional approach. An American example is the simplest. We all know, from grade school on that, according to the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. We all also know that this legal nicety is essentially meaningless. A comparative example would show that even at the height of Stalin’s power, the Soviet Union had a constitutionally limited government, political parties, and regular elections. A similar juxtaposition of “on paper” institutions, societal as well as governmental, and institutional reality can be seen in Le Guin’s descriptions of both A-Io and Anarres. A-Io On paper, the role of women on Anarres stands in marked contrast to the role of women in A-Io. In A-Io women are treated as objects. As adolescents, Shev and his friends lay on a hillside envisioning the women on Urras with jewels in their navels and, when he arrives on Urras, that is, in fact, what he finds (41, 23). Early in the novel, Dr. Kimoe is “shocked out of politeness” when confronts Shev over the equality of women on Anarres: “But the loss of- of everything feminine- of delicacy- and the loss of masculine self-respect – You can’t pretend, surely, in your work that women are your equals? You can’t pretend to lower yourself constantly to their level?” (17) However,

Authors: Connor, George.
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Rigsby’s analyses is that they focus on Anarresti institutions and largely ignore A-Io and
Thu. Additionally, regardless of the supposed institutional shortcomings, a traditional
institutional approach to comparative government fails to prepare introductory students
for critical engagement. I would suggest that there is a sufficient amount of information
about the institutional foundations of Anarres and A-Io to supplement a more traditional,
textbook-drive approach to comparative politics as well as to engage students in a
meaningful discussion of the limits of a pure institutional approach.
An American example is the simplest. We all know, from grade school on that,
according to the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. We all also know that this
legal nicety is essentially meaningless. A comparative example would show that even at
the height of Stalin’s power, the Soviet Union had a constitutionally limited government,
political parties, and regular elections. A similar juxtaposition of “on paper” institutions,
societal as well as governmental, and institutional reality can be seen in Le Guin’s
descriptions of both A-Io and Anarres.
A-Io
On paper, the role of women on Anarres stands in marked contrast to the role of
women in A-Io. In A-Io women are treated as objects. As adolescents, Shev and his
friends lay on a hillside envisioning the women on Urras with jewels in their navels and,
when he arrives on Urras, that is, in fact, what he finds (41, 23). Early in the novel, Dr.
Kimoe is “shocked out of politeness” when confronts Shev over the equality of women
on Anarres: “But the loss of- of everything feminine- of delicacy- and the loss of
masculine self-respect – You can’t pretend, surely, in your work that women are your
equals? You can’t pretend to lower yourself constantly to their level?” (17) However,


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