Research topics


Over the summer, I spent several weeks reading through the papers of Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ. There’s so much incredible material there!

The following list is by no means exhaustive and it does not include topics on the other significant collections in SCUA. Some of the items are broad topics; others are specific questions. You might find something that will pique your interest. You may want to strike out on your own.

But be warned: it’s easy to get lost in these papers!

Pre-internet community-building among feminist writers (Le Guin, Russ)

Letters shedding light on interpretations of novels (Le Guin, Charnas’ correspondence with Russ re: Walk to the End of the World and The Vampire Tapestries)

Mentoring networks of feminist science fiction authors (c.f. Le Guin’s correspondence with Vonda McIntyre, Betsy James, Molly Gloss, as well as Russ’ correspondence with Charnas and Tiptree)

Karen Lorraine Duff (aka Mog Decarnin) and Joanna Russ on pornography and origins of slash fiction (see also letter from Tiptree, Box 10, Folder 40, 18 Aug 1984)

Why is pornography so significant for Russ? Using her published work and her letters, research this.

Importance of archives for women writers – see Tiptree letter to Joanna Russ, 12 March 1979 (Box 10, Folder 34)

Do Tiptree’s letters to Russ change after Tiptree comes out as a woman?

Do Joanna Russ’ letters to Tiptree change after it was revealed Tiptree was actually Alice Sheldon?

At this point in time, UO only has Tiptree’s letters to Russ. Reading Tiptree’s letters, describe Joanna Russ.

There is nearly a two year gap in Tiptree’s letters to Russ. How do you account for this gap in communicaton?
How does James Tiptree, Jr. perform gender in his letters to authors like Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ?
Using Tiptree and Russ’s correspondence, as well as their fiction, discuss their theories of sex and gender, or what Tiptree refers to as their Great Sex Discussion (28 November 1974). (see JT’s Halloween letter to JR 1974).

In his correspondence with Joanna Russ, James Tiptree returns again and again to the centrality of mothers and mothering. What is her theory about mothering and its centrality to her notions of gender?

Suzy McKee Charnas’ letters to Joanna Russ and issues of sexuality and sexual identity

Character of Weyland in The Vampire Tapestries and Charnas’ explications of him in letters to Russ
Tiptree and influence of her academic training (she was an experimental psychologist) on her sci fi

In Box 10, Folder 42 of Russ’s papers, there’s a note that Tiptree wrote to Russ shortly before Alice Sheldon killed herself, with a clipped cartoon from Peanuts. Based on your reading of Tiptree’s correspondence to Russ, analyze the meaning of the cartoon

Correspondence between Russ and McIntyre – feminist politics (esp 1972-ish)

Both Tiptree and Vonda McIntyre argue with Joanna Russ about Ursula Le Guin’s writing and politics. Using these letters and based on your readings of their texts, unpack this conflict.

In Russ’ letters to Tiptree, she frequently criticizes him concerning his male privilege. Is there evidence in her letters that she is self-reflexive about her own racial privilege?

Influence of primatology in Russ-Tiptree correspondence.

Why didn’t Joanna Russ get tenure at SUNY-Binghamton? Research this question. Using her letters, describe the impact this had on her work, health, and life.

In 1974, Tiptree and Russ have an epic argument over the role that biology plays in gender roles. Using the letters, describe the nature of the argument and the extent to which each marshals science in support of very different takes on gender and sexism.

How did anthropology as a discipline figure so prominently in the work of these authors?How did these authors deal with the demands of personal lives (including children and partners) and their creative work?

Women are much more likely to suffer from autoimmune disorders than men. Tiptree and Russ in particular discuss their often disabling illnesses on their work, lives, and careers. What illnesses did they suffer from? How did their illnesses affect their work? How did their correspondence provide mutual support?

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