Politics, Persuasion, and Pragmatism

A Rhetoric of Feminist Utopian Fiction

Ellen Peel

An addition to the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative series, Peel’s book addresses how feminist utopian narratives attempt to persuade readers to adopt certain beliefs. Using three feminist utopian novels as her main examples, The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five by Doris Lessing; The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin; and Les Guérillères by Monique Wittig, Peel examines how belief-bridging and protean metaphor in these works persuade readers. Literary persuasion, often dismissed as propaganda, in fact works in subtle and profound ways. The book presents major techniques by which narrative literature exercises this sophisticated influence on beliefs. Ultimately concluding that the pragmatic works better than the static in utopian feminism, Peel shows how, in novels such as those under discussion, the narrative techniques support pragmatism.

Inquiring how narrative form can shape political belief by affecting readers’ responses, the author integrates topics that are rarely combined. The book investigates three theoretical issues: utopian belief, distinguishing the perfectionism of the static from the vitality of the pragmatic and showing how the latter creates narrative energy; the persuasive process, tracing narrative form and asking how implied readers match real ones and how readers are swayed by belief-bridging and protean metaphor; and feminist belief, a nuanced definition that accounts both for what links feminists and what makes them diverse. Politics, Persuasion, and Pragmatism explores the rhetorical and ethical power of narrative literature.

Ellen Peel is professor in The Department of World and Comparative Literature and The Department of English at San Francisco State University.

Oct 2002
Narrative Studies/Literary Studies
272 pp. 6 x 9

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