Virtual Course | Reading Octavia E. Butler with Gerry Canavan [in progress]

Date / Time

  • September 13, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • October 11, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • November 1, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • December 6, 2021
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm


This program is sponsored by Liza and Jonathan Seltzer


  • Tuition for this course is $200.
  • Rosenbach members receive a 10% discount on tuition.
  • Not a member? We invite you to join upon registration. Click here for more information about membership.
  • This course is limited to participants who are 17 years of age or older.
  • Before the first meeting, The Rosenbach will send the Zoom link for course meetings. 
  • Two complimentary tickets to visit The Rosenbach are included with your paid registration for this virtual course. You will receive the discount code in your email confirmation and tickets can be booked here. Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation.
  • If you have questions about registration, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on August 4, for members on August 6, and for the general public on August 9.



Course Description

Octavia E. Butler’s literary and cultural reputation has only grown in the fifteen years since her untimely death in 2006, as her paradigm-shattering importance in the science fiction genre has become more widely recognized and as the world (for better and for worse) seems more like an Octavia E. Butler tale every day. Over a decade after her death, Butler finally achieved her dream of appearing on the New York Times bestsellers list; nearly every novel she wrote is now under development as a film or television series; prestige editions from the Library of America are being published alongside beautiful and stunningly inventive comic-book adaptations. On Twitter, haunting hashtags like #OctaviaToTellUs and #OctaviaKnew in response to the news not only prove the ongoing relevance of her fiction but show us how Butler has come to circulate almost as a sort of prophet, predicting a future that has somehow gone bad, and inspiring all of us to find ways to survive it and thrive in it.

This four-week lecture and discussion series will focus on her four most important and most influential novels: Kindred, Wild Seed, Dawn, and Parable of the Sower. From grim time travel to the antebellum South to mutant shapeshifters exploring the Africa of the slave trade, from first contact with tentacle aliens after a nuclear war to a climate-ravaged America of the 2020s bedeviled by a despot vowing to “make America great again,” these are the novels that establish Butler as one of the great artists and thinkers of our time, and open the door on a relentlessly and unapologetically creative genius who transformed many lives.

Reading Octavia E. Butler with Gerry Canavan Syllabus

About the Instructor

Gerry Canavan is an associate professor of twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature in the Department of English at Marquette University, the author of Octavia E. Butler (University of Illinois Press, 2016), and the editor of the Library of America editions of Kindred and Fledgling. He is the co-editor of Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction, The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction, and The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, and also serves as an editor at two academic journals focused on science fiction studies: Extrapolation and Science Fiction Film and Television.

Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarships may be available for this course. For more information, please contact Emilie Parker at [email protected].

About Rosenbach Courses

Revisit beloved classics or experience new ones with Rosenbach courses. Book lovers delve into fiction, history, and poetry with the guidance of a literary expert and the company of other readers. See all upcoming courses.

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