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Science Fiction Double Feature

Steinberg argues that Butler “incorporates postmodern fiction literary techniques to critique the notion that historical and psychological slavery can be overcome”. This thesis intersects our class’ recent discussion of the implications of the fantasy/science fiction label of Butler’s text. Moreover, it augments the juxtaposition we encountered between the literary significance of a fantasy story versus a historic slave narrative.

For whatever reason, I felt compelled to read Incidents with a measure of gravity in mind, because this text was a first-hand account of a dark time in the nation’s history. It seemed absurd to even consider writing any critical analysis of Jacobs’ text, for this was a personal account, a story recounted from memory, not at all like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was narratively fiction. There was no psychology to analyze, no visual themes or motifs to be on the look out for. This story, with hundreds of pages, deserved as much attention and diligence as the most pressing headline story of a modern newspaper.

Conversely, the immediate presentation of the fantasy elements in Kindred ultimately informed me that the text was not going to be a modern-day Incidents, and so its treatment of history would not necessarily be for the sake of accuracy and complete understanding . Perhaps this was Butler’s ultimate intention with the time travel mechanism – to point out that even visiting the past does not grant an absolute knowledge of it. Steinberg argues that Butler is fighting against the notion of “overcoming” slavery, of undoing its effects and place in our memory – but beyond this, Butler is also struggling against the fallacy of exorcising historiography. Even if we were to travel back in time, we would understand just as little about the past.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 29, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I completely agree with your last sentence, my friend. The biases a modern character brings back through time travel will always keep them from totally understanding extreme situations such as slavery. While it’s conceivable to understand the interactions in a confined social environment, fully grasping a concept that has been mostly eradicated from modern society is nearly impossible.

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