“Approaches to Teaching Octavia E. Butler in the Academy” Roundtable, 2018 Octavia E. Butler Literary Society Conference, 2/23-2/25, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA

I am headed to Atlanta, Georgia to be a part of the 2018 Octavia E. Butler Literary Society (OEB) Conference, which will be held at Spelman College, February 23-25, 2108.  This is the second time the OEB Conference has been held, and I am really excited to attend a new conference to meet new people, make new friends and contacts, and to explore a different thread in my own work.  (I am a little nervous, truth be told, because this will be the first conference in a long, long, long time where I know no one that will be there.  It will be like my first years as a grad student all over again.)  I am presenting as part of the “”Approaches to Teaching Octavia E. Butler in the Academy” roundtable, which dovetails with the upcoming release of an edited collection of the same name published by MLA Books.  Dr. Tarshia Stanely, the editor and chair of the roundtable, put the session together featuring:

  • Tarshia Stanley–Chair
  • Edmond Y. Chang–Ohio University
  • Bevin Roue–Auburn University
  • Claire Curtis–College of Charleston
  • Aparajita Nanda–University of California, Berkeley
  • Shreyashi Mukherjee–Assam University, Diphu, India
  • Beth McCoy–SUNY, Genesco

I will be presenting a five minute lightning talk about my chapter on teaching Butler’s Dawn and using drawing in the literature classroom.  The essay is entitled “Drawing the Oankali: Imagining Race, Gender, and the Posthuman in Octavia Butler’s Dawn.”  The abstract for the essay reads:

Sheree Thomas, editor of the 2000 collection Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, wrote that science fiction and fantasy, particularly by writers of color, “have always offered readers, bold, extraordinary ways by which to examine society. The results have often been visionary, with writers acting as unflinching voyeurs who deliver engaging, sometimes scathing critiques of our traditions, values, nightmares, and dreams.”  Octavia Butler’s Xenogensis trilogy–Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago–imagine a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity has been “saved” by the Oankali, an alien race with the ability to manipulate genetic material.  As in most of her science fiction, Butler unflinchingly engages questions of race, gender, sexuality, power, and what it means to be “human.”  In the case of the Oankali, the transformation of humans (and Oankali), the miscegenation of both species engages the posthuman.  Drawing on my courses that feature Butler’s Xenogensis trilogy, this paper articulates the pedagogical opportunities raised by the Oankali.  In particular, the essay focuses on a drawing assignment called “Imagining the Oankali” where students are asked to draw, represent, or create their idea of the aliens as a way to make visible how the novels dramatize difference, non- and posthumanness, and difficult identities and embodiments.

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