English R1A

Reading and Composition: Octavia Butler: Writing the Body

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2020 Homans-Turnbull, Marian
Note new time: MW 3-4:30

Book List

Butler, Octavia: Kindred; Butler, Octavia: Lilith's Brood; Butler, Octavia: Seed to Harvest

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be made available on bCourses.


How do fictional identities relate to lived ones? How does a body relate to a mind, a self, or a person? And how do these relationships change as cataclysmic events change the societies in which our identities develop?    

In this course we will read three novels engaging with these questions by pioneering science fiction writer Octavia Butler: DawnWild Seed, and Kindred. We will consider each text through the lenses of disability, race, and gender. We will discuss the relation of Butler’s novels—set in variously post-apocalyptic worlds both like and unlike our own—to the worlds in which she lived and we live. With the central goal of developing students' critical reading and analytical skills, we will consider what arguments Butler’s stories make about embodiment, identity, and society, and the roles of world-building and other literary techniques in making them. 

In addition to reading and thinking, we will be guided by the goal of developing your expository and argumentative writing skills. We will talk not only about how course readings make arguments, but also about how to identify compelling questions, communicate clearly in writing, and make persuasive arguments of your own. You will develop, draft, peer-review, and revise several short essays over the course of the term.

Content warning: course readings include depictions of racism and racial violence, sexual coercion, family separation, and self-harm and suicide. If you have concerns about encountering anything specific in course readings and would like me to provide warnings, I will do my best to do so.

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