Rites of Passage, Liminality, and Community in Octavia E. Butler’s Science Fiction Novels explores the ways in which Octavia Butler’s liminal protagonists undergo ritualized transformations while in exile from their home communities. During this process, they engage in psychological, physical, political, and social transitions through what Victor Turner and Makhail Bakhtin describe as carnivalesque identities. Using postcolonial, feminist, anti-capitalist, and African American theorists, Lin Knutson examines how Butler’s imagined genesis and history carry echoes of American history, slave history, debt slavery, and colonization.
Lin Knutson is associate professor at Mississippi Valley State University.
Chapter 1: Rites of Passage
Chapter 2: Patternist
Chapter 3: Xenogenesis
Chapter 4: Parable
Chapter 5: Fledgling
About the Author
In Rites of Passage, Liminality, and Community in Octavia E. Butler's Science Fiction Novels, Knutson uses the theoretical work of Victor Turner on liminality and communitas to do a thorough reading of Octavia Butler’s Patternist and Xenongenist series, and the novels Kindred and Fledgling, bringing a postcolonial lens to bear on Butler’s themes of racism, estrangement, misogyny, and enslavement. Her chapter on Fledgling is particularly powerful, revealing that the vampire story indicts structural racism in the United States. I highly recommend Knutson’s book for Octavia Butler fans, Afrofuturism aficionados, and readers interested in colonial and postcolonial themes in science fiction.
Lin Knutson provides a compelling and textured exploration of the formation and rupture of community in 11 Octavia Butler novels. In accessible scholarly prose, Knutson reveals how the genre-bending African American novelist re-envisioned the possibilities of science fiction and transformed global literature for the better.