Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Sower" & American Apocalypse: Online seminar enrolling for Jan 2021

Meghan Vicks Discussion

Hi all,

I would like to share info about an online seminar-style course that may be of interest:

Parable of the Sower and American Apocalypse. January 5–26, 2021; Tuesdays 6:30–8:30pm PT; 4 online class sessions over a period of 4 weeks; enrollment is open but limited to the first 20 students.

Course description: In 1939 Bertolt Brecht published the lines: “In the dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will be singing / About the dark times.” Singing, or in this case writing, about the dark times is central to apocalyptic fiction; and the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century has seen a rise in apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, to the point where the apocalyptic and the dystopian seem everywhere. In a different register, Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson has written that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” From this perspective, apocalyptic fiction begins to read less as speculative fiction and more as the realism of our times.  

This course will focus primarily on Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) as an example of an apocalyptic text that not only sings its own dark times, but sings to ours as well. In this terrifyingly prescient novel, Butler describes the immiserating effects of catastrophic climate change, racial and economic inequality, genetic mutation, and political demagoguery. Our reading of Parable of the Sower will be supplemented with secondary readings on apocalyptic literature by authors like Roy Scranton and Kim Stanley Robinson to give students grounding in the field.    

Over the course of the four weeks we will examine a series of central questions: What does it look like to sing the dark times? What remains after an apocalyptic event? How does an apocalyptic text critique the moment in which it was written? Does apocalypse look the same for everyone, or does apocalypse differ for different economic, social, racial, and national groups?  Finally, is there a possibility of thriving in the face of apocalypse? More info here: https://borderlinesopenschool.org/courses/p/sowerparable

This course is hosted by a new nonprofit, Borderlines Open School for Advanced Cross-Cultural Studies, which aims to offer the general public, students, teachers, and professors alike affordable opportunities for engaging with and developing advanced and creative scholarship outside of the usual university system, as well as to ethically pay and support all of their instructors, recognizing their intellectual and pedagogical labor as valuable work that matters. To learn more, please see the FAQs. You may also email me with any questions.

All best,

Meghan Vicks