I am pleased to announce that Signum University MA student Jens Hieber will present his thesis “Negotiated Symbiosis: Power, Identity, and Community in the Works of Octavia E. Butler,” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Jens’ thesis supervisor–me! I have confessed before that I am a fan of Butler’s work, including some of her tips on writing and thoughts about her vampire novel, Fledgling. Jens’ work is an important consideration of a key theme in Butler’s work–an author who was one of the very few women Black science fiction authors in the 80s, 90s, and 00s.
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Thesis Abstract: “Negotiated Symbiosis: Power, Identity, and Community in the Works of Octavia E. Butler”
Octavia Butler continually explores different versions of symbiosis, ranging from mutualistic to parasitic. In this range of relationships, one side is clearly more human than the other, and through negotiating their survival and benefits, Butler emphasizes certain traits of humanity that force her characters to go beyond viewing themselves as only individuals and into an acceptance of hybridity. Through symbiosis, these relationships allow Butler to explore her self-professed interest in power dynamics, the fraught process of identity deconstruction and reconstruction, and concerted insistence on building hybridized community. By laying out these tendencies through one of Butler’s more well-studied stories “Bloodchild” and some less-explored works in “Amnesty” and Fledgling, my project seeks to illuminate how Butler uses negotiated symbiosis to give her characters shared power; construct fluid, cyborg identities; and build other-centered, hybridized community.
About the Presenter
Jens Hieber is a high school English teacher from Germany, working at an international school in Malaysia. His fascination with all things speculative fiction informs his studies, reading, teaching, and creative writing. Someday, he hopes to release his fiction upon the world. He lives on the island of Penang with his wife, two cats, and an assortment of tropical fish.
About Signum Thesis Theaters
Our graduate students write a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theatre is where they can present their thesis to the Signum community and wider public, enabling them to explain their research in detail, and respond to questions from the audience.