Vol. 66 No. 3 (2018)

The Namework of Ursula K. Le Guin

Published 2018-07-03


  • marriage,
  • women,
  • marital name,
  • feminism,
  • choice,
  • identity,
  • Great Britain
  • ...More


With its focus on sound and form in language, Sigmund Freud’s concept of jokework provides a useful analogy for studying invented names in fiction. This is especially true of a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin, who describes the onomastic creation in her stories and novels as a largely subconscious process. The namework in her fiction recalls the kind of wordplay and verbal experimentation in which children like to indulge, an activity that both Freud and Le Guin claim is inhibited in the course of growing up. It moreover privileges names in and of themselves as objects of aesthetic delight for the ears, eyes and minds of both the author and her readers. Finally, the concept of namework helps to explain how and why Le Guin recreates names that look and sound alike in her fantasy and science fiction.


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