The Black Female Body and Time Travel through the Works of Octavia Butler

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2019-03-25

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Abstract

This project argues that time travel functions as a literary device represented through the Black body in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Wild Seed. This project includes four parts. The introduction begins with an intensive examination of the representation of Black women’s sexuality and identity in American popular culture. Popular culture is essential to discussing the impact of Octavia Butler’s work. Each of her protagonists operates against stereotypes of Black female physicality and identity. Specifically, this chapter explores Black female sexuality, and Black feminist and womanist theory to culturally ground the shift that Butler’s work creates in the prescribed notions about Black women’s physicality. Chapter 1 begins with a brief personal history of Octavia Butler. Chapter I is an examination of Butler’s impact on the science fiction genre. Chapter 2 explores the genre of science fiction, its history as a white male-dominated field, and the shift that Butler’s work makes due to her centering Black women. Butler presents characters that are non- white, and ungendered into the science fiction genre. Before Butler, race and gender were not discussed in science fiction. Characters that were identifying as something other than white males were voiceless background characters or incoherent aliens. Chapter 3 discusses time travel in Octavia Butler’s novels Kindred and Wild Seed, focusing on the effects of slavery and violence. This chapter will discuss how the protagonist in both novels is the physical embodiment of the past. Chapter 3, specifically, explores how Butler’s work on time travel and in historical context transforms the Black body. My conclusion ties together the works of Octavia Butler as a lineage for Black female writers from the past, present and future.

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Harris, Kenya Chanelle (2019). The Black Female Body and Time Travel through the Works of Octavia Butler. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18941.


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