Self through Remembrance

  • Teresa Egbert


This thesis focuses on the roles of memory and identity in Octavia E. Butler’s novels: Kindred, Lilith’s Brood, Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Fledgling. By using material from such diverse disciplines as philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, I have treated the characters in Butler’s novels as individual selves; selves narrated by a living Butler. In current identity studies, the thought is that the self is constructed through narrative; therefore, what better way to analyze individual characters and communities than through the narrative provided by Butler. These selves are, of course, fictional, but how often are the selves we present, even temporarily, to the world in a given situation a fictional construction. We use many different critical tools to interpret and understand the world around us. While it is important to acknowledge the insightful implications of Butler’s work in regard to African American, gender, and feminist studies, there are unexplored approaches to her writing that can contribute to understanding the intricacies of Butler’s writing. This look at Butler’s texts shows that by opening up the ways we traditionally look at certain texts we can gain a more multi-faceted view of those texts, which are sometimes viewed through a type of tunnel vision. My discussion begins with a look at the theories used in the analyses of Butler’s novels. First, I look at Kindred and a discussion of individual identities and how they are deeply connected to group affiliations, as well as history. Then I move on to how group identities are created and influenced by collective memories in Lilith’s Brood. The Parable novels are the focus of my discussion on the construction of self through narrative. I end my analyses with a look at neuroscience and memory pathology through the amnestic protagonist of Fledgling.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award dateJan 2016