The attached paper focuses on Octavia Butler’s parable series, Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). This work was a final assignment for a class we took in our first year of our Research Master in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University (in the Netherlands). The masterclass was called “Speculative and Utopian Writing and the Transcultural” with dr Barnita Bagchi. In November 2017, we presented the paper at a conference “Mobile Utopia: Pasts, Presents, Futures” in Lancaster (UK). This conference brought together academics from different disciplinary backgrounds as well as artists, examining various topics such as “The Narrow Utopia of Finance” as well as “Utopian Everyday,” “Mobility Justice,” and included an experimental Art Exhibition. The session in which we presented was called “Mobile Utopia, Fiction, and Experiment,” chaired by Malene Freudendal-Piedersen and Lynne Pearce.
Octavia Butler’s parable series have been discussed in the light of utopian as well as dystopian debates. However, we claim in our paper that these discussions on genre fail to fully grasp the essence of Butler’s works because a fit label to her writing does not exist. For us, it was urgent to approach her fiction with a sense of mobility to prevent a totalitarian, generic classification of her work. Mobility in genre avoids the pitfall of a closed narrative system and thereby prevents the ambivalent use of labels and categories.
Laurence Schaack is currently a Research Master student in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She formerly graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature with Creative Writing from the University of Greenwich in London. Her research interests include African-American literature, fairy tale studies and French feminism.
Leonie Brasser graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Utrecht University. She is currently a Research Master student in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Her research interests entail animal studies and mental illness in literature.