• Patterns in the Parables: Black Female Agency and Octavia Butler's Construction of Black Womanhood

      Goldblatt, Eli; Delany, Samuel R.; Kaufmann, Michael W., 1964-; Melzer, Patricia, 1970- (Temple University. Libraries, 2011)
      This project argues that Octavia's Butler's construction of the black woman characters is unique within the pantheon of late eighties African-American writers primarily through Butler's celebration of black female physicality and the agency the black body provides. The project is divided into five sections beginning with an intensive examination of Butler's ur-character, Anyanwu. This character is vitally important in discussing Butler's canon because she embodies the attributes and thematic issues that run throughout the author's work, specifically, the author's argument that black woman are provided opportunity through their bodies. Chapter two addresses the way black women's femininity is judged: their sexual activity. In this chapter, I explore one facet of Octavia Butler's narrative examination of sexual co-option and her subsequent implied challenge to definitions of feminine morality through the character Lilith who appears throughout Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy. Specifically, I explore this subject using Harriet Jacobs' seminal autobiography and slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as the prism in which I historically focus the conversation. In chapter three, I move the discussion into an exploration of black motherhood. Much like the aforementioned challenge to femininity vis-à-vis sexual morality, Octavia Butler often challenges and interrogates the traditional definition of motherhood, specifically, the relationship between mother and daughter. I will focus on different aspects of that mother/daughter relationship in two series, the Patternist sequence, which includes, in chronological order, Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind and Patternmaster. Chapter four discusses Butler's final novel, Fledgling, and how the novel's protagonist, Shori not only fits into the matrix of Butler characters but represents the culmination of the privileging of black female physicality that I observe in the author's entire canon. Specifically, while earlier characters are shown to create opportunities and venues of agency through their bodies, in Shori, Butler posits a character whose existence is predicated on its blackness and discusses how that purposeful racial construction leads to freedom.