Butler’s Gravity

Octavia E. Butler’s novels and short stories demonstrate a robust capacity to animate the world beyond a literary context. Her work has been used as a resource for political praxis in the anthology Octavia’s Brood, and even passages of her novel, Parable of the Sower, serve as the founding doctrine of a religious movement called Earthseed. While it is the case that Butler’s Blackness and womanness has contributed to her writing’s extension into political, religious, and other “real-world” fields, it is the materiality of her lived experience that informs her writing’s animating force. Like Butler, Lauren Oya Olamina, the protagonist of the Parable duology, incorporates her own lived embodied experience into her creative labor by emphasizing the signficance of materiality in reckoning and living the world. I argue that carefully attending to materiality–understood  “as the tense and ongoing work of living within the thickened experiences and sensory orders of daily life”–is essential to the exceptionally animating force behind Butler’s and Lauren’s creative labor (Tompkins 61). In turn, this suggests that it’s more useful to consider the question of Butler’s identity as one of the specificity of a Black woman’s embodied experience rather than resemblance or proximity to a larger group.

Work Cited

Tompkins, Kyla Wazana. “’You Make Me Feel Right Quare’: Promiscuous Reading, Minoritarian Critique, and White Sovereign Entrepreneurial Terror.” Social Text, vol. 35, no. 4, 2017, pp. 53-86.


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