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Title: The outsider within : explorations of the science fiction of Octavia Estelle Butler
Author: Wood, Sarah.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3572 0620
Awarding Body: University of Central England in Birmingham
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 2002
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A study of Octavia Butler has long been overdue. My aim is to rectify the paucity of critical commentary on her work, and to take into consideration the specificity of the African American woman. Examining how Butler's fiction interrogates the dual narratives of oppression that are an integral feature of black women's lives, I focus on six areas of Butler's fiction. Butler uses the conventions of science fiction to interrogate religious and secular mythologies that aim to limit and circumscribe the black woman; I explore how she amalgamates science fiction with other narrative modes such as fantasy, the historical novel, and the slave narrative. Linked to a consideration of Butler's use of science fiction is an exploration of the spaces she creates. I examine the categorisation of her work as either utopian or dystopian suggesting that Butler complicates this enterprise by questioning and extending its format. Her work rejects the hope and consolation offered by utopias; instead her fiction opens onto heterotopia, revelling in contradiction, difference, and change. Butler's fiction is preoccupied with the treatment of the black woman's bodily, material existence. She uses strategies of transformation to elude white patriarchal control, presenting us with grotesque figures and cyborg monsters that provide a parodic reversal of the images that have been apportioned to black men and women. Relations of self to its others are a fundamental aspect of Butler's work. However, rather than simply dramatising hierarchical, binary thinking and its subsequent deconstruction, her work offers alternative formations of self and other in which each term is able to recognise its other in their full subjectivity. Butler makes use of a linguistic heritage that is 'double-voiced'. The polyphonic construction of her texts, her use of Signifying, and the repetition and displacement that she enacts is indicative of much African American literature. Butler's reliance on religion in her work suggests a fundamental interrogation of Christianity. Her novels explore the complicated relationship that African Americans maintain toward the Judeo-Christian tradition; devices such as the introduction of African belief systems and the creation of an entirely new religion work to disrupt this. Articulating the view from the margins, Butler's fiction talks back to narratives of originary identity that posit the black woman as other, as inferior, and therefore, as subjugated to a white, male ideal.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature