Refusing History at the End of the Earth: Ursula Le Guin’s “Sur” and the 2000-01 Women’s Antarctica Crossing

Elena GlasbergDuke University
Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring 2002), 99-121

Looking at Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Sur,” this essay offers an examination of feminism’s troubled rapport with history.  “Sur,” which rewrites the history of Antarctic exploration away from male-dominated discourse, explores avenues both of postcolonialism and feminism. Uninhabitable, yet nonetheless the last opportunity on the globe for discovery, Antarctica is a matter not merely of space but of time. The essay states that Antarctica came quite late to the scene of cultures and since its arrival has remained marginal at best. Yet as a spatialized symbol of time, of the lateness of the hour, and of the emergency of the need for the preservation of future possibilities for culture, the South Pole operates as a cool site, if you will, for the often overheated arguments surrounding the history of the movements against Western dominance, both patriarchal and colonial. The essay’s argument urges readers to reconfront the ways Le Guin’s destabilizing fiction has profound implications for any feminist futures being presently produced. Le Guin’s suspicion toward autochthonous ontology, or narratives that place their authors at their own beginnings, might prove productive for feminist, subalternist, and postcolonial theorizing, both against the presumptions of standard history and within competing revisionisms.


Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]