Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

John Taylor


While Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness has received much attention, scholars have largely overlooked one dynamic and integral device found in the novel, that of shifgrethor. This thesis offers an exposition of this LeGuinian device, by examining shifgrethor as theme within a Russian Formalism framework, by first establishing a working definition, and then by examining the device used within the novel to establish it as a theme. In the first chapter, I offer the reasons behind my interest in the novel and then move into providing an overview of previous research done on The Left Hand of Darkness in chapter two. In the third chapter, I provide a framework for the analysis in Russian Formalism. I offer a review of the movement and spend particular attention on Viktor Shklovsky’s defamiliarization. Additionally, I develop a working definition of “theme” that builds an outline for the ensuing analysis and argument. In chapter four, I argue shifgrethor as theme by first establishing a working definition through a close reading of the text paired with the sociolinguistic work of Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand (i.e., oneupsmanship). After defining shifgrethor, I argue the Le Guinian term as theme by using defamiliarization and socioliguistical devices paired with an indepth and close reading of The Left Hand of Darkness.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-2018. Left hand of darkness
Communication in literature
Formalism (Literary analysis)
Figures of speech


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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