English Literature

Octavia Butler and the Impossibility of Slavery

Dr Robert Maslen, University of Glasgow

Fantasy is often defined as the art of the impossible. It's also thought of as a cheery, mildly adolescent and thoroughly conservative preoccupation. When Octavia Butler dubbed her novel Kindred (1979) a 'grim fantasy', then, she was throwing down the gauntlet to the genre as it was understood in the post-Tolkienian literary arena. My talk will examine what she conjured up by linking this account of slavery in the antebellum American South with the burgeoning field of fantasy fiction in the 60s and 70s. In particular it will consider how she plays havoc with notions of what may or may not be possible, and with how the margins of the possible are always shifting like the borders of Lord Dunsany's Elfland - with cataclysmic effects for those stranded on the wrong side of the border at any given time.

Biography

Rob Maslen is Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He started out as an early modern scholar, with a special interest in pre-novelistic discourse and Shakespearean comedy. He now convenes an MLitt in Fantasy. His books include Elizabethan Fictions, Shakespeare and Comedy, and two editions of the poems of Mervyn Peake. He blogs at The City of Lost Books.

Cover of Octavia E. Butler's novel, Kindred
Oct 06 2017 -

Octavia Butler and the Impossibility of Slavery

In this seminar Dr Robert Maslen will examine Octavia Butler's novel "Kindred", and the effect of linking this account of slavery in the antebellum American South with the burgeoning field of fantasy fiction in the 60s and 70s.

Lecture Theatre B
David Hume Tower
Edinburgh
EH8 9LX