AFR 213
Race, Gender, and the Alien Body: Octavia Butler's Science Fiction
Last Offered Spring 2022
Division II
Cross-listed STS 213 / WGSS 213
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

Science fiction is a genre well known for its ability to envision new realities, and Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) is among the most highly regarded science fiction writers. Butler’s uncanny ability to imagine the future anew and to merge those ruminations with her experiences as an African American woman provide powerful commentary on–and often disrupt–modern understandings of race, gender, and human embodiment. We will explore questions such as: What role does ‘gender’ play in Butler’s fiction? How does Butler’s treatment of the ‘alien’ cause us to reconsider what it means to be human? How does Butler incorporate `race’ and the concept of ‘other’ into her fiction, and how do these techniques help us situate contemporary discussions of a post-race society? We will examine the relationship between Butler’s visions for the future and what her narratives of future worlds invariably suggest about the present. We will read key texts including the best-selling text Kindred (1979), the haunting dystopian novel Parable of the Sower (1994), the popular vampire text Fledgling (2005), and the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (1996). We will also explore contemporary engagement with Butler’s work including the relationship between the main character from her book Dawn (1987), and Henrietta Lacks, the African American woman from whom the immortal cell line (HeLa) used for medical research derives. This tutorial will engage Octavia Butler’s work broadly, and with particular attention to how the concepts ‘race,’ ‘gender’, `alien’ and ‘body’ are interrogated in her writings.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3306
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance, paired weekly reflection/response papers, a 5- to 7-page creative writing assignment, and a final essay of 10 pages
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: students with interests and/or prior coursework in Africana Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 213 Division II AFR 213 Division II WGSS 213 Division II
Attributes: AFR Core Electives
WGSS Racial Sexual + Cultural Diversity Courses

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