Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler

The OEB Literary Society would like to congratulate Dr. Tarshia L. Stanley and the incredible contributors who have crafted a collection of essays on teaching Butler in various disciplines. Available from Modern Language Association Press.

From the MLA website:

Octavia E. Butler’s works of science fiction invite readers to consider the structures of power in society and to ask what it means to be human. Butler addresses social justice issues such as poverty, racism, and violence against women and connects the history of slavery in the United States with speculation on a biologically altered future world.

The first section of this volume, “Materials,” lists secondary sources and interviews with Butler and suggests texts that instructors might pair with her works. Essays in the second section, “Approaches,” situate Butler in science fiction, modernism, and Afrofuturism and provide interdisciplinary approaches from political science, philosophy, art, and digital humanities. The contributors present strategies for teaching Butler in literature courses as well as courses designed for adult learners, preservice teachers, and students at historically black colleges and universities.





American Literature Association Bloodchild and Other Stories CFP

Octavia E. Butler Literary Society

American Literature Association Annual Conference


May 2019
The OEB Literary Society invites prospective participants to submit proposals relating to any aspect of Butler’s life and work. We especially encourage papers/panels addressing Butler’s short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories, and would like to devote at least one of the panels to this topic. We are open to the submission of both full panels and individual papers. Please email full panel proposals and/or individual abstracts of 300 words to Matthew Mullins at Abstracts are due no later than January 15, 2019 and should include a brief biographical note.

American Literature Association’s 30th Annual Conference

The American Literature Association’s 30th annual conference will meet at the Westin Copley Place in Boston on May 23-26, 2019 (Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend).  The deadline for proposals is January 30, 2019. For further information, please consult the ALA website at or for specific questions, contact the conference director and Executive Coordinator of the ALA, Professor Olivia Carr Edenfield, at or the Executive Director of the ALA, Professor Alfred Bendixen at


Call for Papers OEB Society is hosting a panel at ALA 

American Literature Association
29th Annual Conference

May 24-27, 2018

Hyatt Regency San Francisco

The OEB Literary Society invites prospective participants to submit proposals relating to any aspect of Butler’s life and work. We especially encourage papers/panels addressing Butler’s influence in the work of contemporary artists across genres, and would like to devote one of the panels to this topic. Please email abstracts of 300 words to Matthew Mullins at Abstracts are due no later than January 15, 2018 and should include a brief biographical note.

2nd Biennial Butler Conference February 2018

Octavia E. Butler:

Uniting the Academy and the Community


The fiction of Octavia E. Butler has fired the imaginations of academics and activists alike. Quite often, however, these communities are walled off from one another. Butler’s explorations of the environment, sexuality, race, politics, and many other topics have established her legacy as a revolutionary, and her influence cannot be contained by the traditional categories and boundaries in which knowledge is typically organized. Her work is too vital to be put into any kind of box. For our second biennial conference, the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society invites scholars, organizers, activists, and educators to come together at Spelman College in Atlanta Georgia from February 23-25, 2018 to share their insights on the works of one of the most important writers of our time. We encourage scholarly proposals but also call for workshops, pedagogical discussions, roundtables, and other presentations.

Topics might include but are not limited to:

Climate change

Community organizing








Teaching Butler


Please submit proposals to by Monday, October 2, 2017, and include “OEB Conference” in the subject line.

Session to be presented at Modern Language Association Conference 2017, Philadelphia PA

Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia Butler

Matthew Mullins, Assistant Professor of English and the History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, discusses Butler’s concept of the future as bound to the past. He posits that Butler’s work represents a key contribution to the history of American literature by making her readers aware of two central conflicts that plague African American literature: the need to recreate a systematically obliterated history and simultaneously imagine a possible future. Mullins’s essay focuses on practical strategies for helping students become aware of the historical expectations they bring to African American literature and for helping instructors situate the results of a student designed in-class activity exploring the narrative structure of Kindred in an American fiction class. Butler’s fiction spurs serious consideration of the relationship between past and future and challenges a variety of assumptions about how history works and how it is represented.

Assistant Professor of English at SUNY, Albany Sami Schalk’s work contends that rather than being merely a medical concern, disability is a phenomenon socially constructed by the physical and attitudinal environments which can vary by time and place. Often instructors approach the concept of disability with examples about the architectural environment. While this explanation helps students understand how physical structures limit the abilities of certain people, it does little to explain how disability is socially constructed in terms of the attitudinal social environment. In Schalk’s essay “Teaching the Social Construction of Disability through the Parable series, Lilith’s Brood, and Seed to Harvest,” she demonstrates how Octavia E. Butler creates worlds in which the expectations and possibilities for bodyminds are different from the world we inhabit. She discusses how disability is socially constructed in Butler’s Parable series, Lilith’s Brood, and Seed to Harvest. By discussing how Butler’s worlds contain not only different kinds of bodyminds, but also different valuations and expectations of bodyminds, instructors can help students develop a more nuanced and complex understanding of the social construction of disability in order to identify and deconstruct it in their own real world(s).

In “Teaching Afrofuturistic Thought Leadership in Octavia E. Butler’s Fiction,” Tarshia Stanley, Associate Professor of English at Spelman College, discusses the strategies used to introduce students to the topics of speculative fiction, Black speculative fiction, and Afrofuturism. The Black female protagonists in Wild Seed (1980), Mind of My Mind (1977) and Survivor (1978) were the primary means of exploring Butler’s practice of Afrofuturism and denoting how such an observation might serve those in search of progressive models of leadership that extend across family, community, and culture. She writes that this kind of discussion is particularly pressing for students whose motto requires a commitment to being leaders and change agents, but does not necessarily address the real-world challenges of doing so in uniquely female bodies and for communities in deep and systemic crisis. Mary, Anyanwu, and Alanna are mothers, daughters, lovers, and warriors as well as leaders. Afrofuturism provides a lens through which to think of those positions as complementary rather than oppositional. The course content and format allowed experimentation with multi-modal writing by including assignments which were presented as humanities poster presentations, critical and creative essays, and free-writing responses formulated for the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society blog.