Octavia E. Butler and the Literature of Black Futures
We will begin this course by reading a selection of Octavia E. Butler's (1947-2006) novels and short stories, including her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, which became a New York Times bestseller in 2020. Born here in Pasadena, California in 1947, Butler's writing explored issues such as chattel slavery, climate change, genetic engineering, pandemics, nuclear apocalypse, and post-apocalyptic life. She was also attentive to Black and indigenous modes of care, healing, social justice, and organizing. We will pay special attention to Butler's critical and theoretical contributions to the fields of Afrofuturism, Black studies, feminisms, gender and sexuality studies, and the environmental humanities by reading her works in conjunction with select works of criticism and theory. In the second half of the course, we will explore connections between Butler and the works of other Afrofuturists and Black science fiction writers today, such as Tomi Adeyemi, Akwaeke Emezi, Nalo Hopkinson, N. K. Jemision, Nnedi Okorafor, and others, in order to explore our own ideas for extending Butler's literature of Black futures. Course requirements will likely include class attendance and participation in discussion, weekly reflections on the readings, a midterm project proposal, and a final project and essay.
The online version of the Caltech Catalog is provided as a convenience; however, the printed version is the only authoritative source of information about course offerings, option requirements, graduation requirements, and other important topics.