Category: McCoy 431 Fall 2017

Responding to Beware the Epistemophilia

In Friday’s class (November 17th) McCoy had us look at previous blog posts by classmates to learn from them. I looked at Sabrina’s post entitled Beware the Epistemophilia. Before I dive into the post itself and what it helped me understand, I would like to define what epistemophilia is.  In Sabrina’s post, she defines it as an excessive love of knowledge. By taking another look at the definition I found that epistemophilia is the specific striving for knowledge or a preoccupation with knowledge. Read more

The Oankali Appearance

Part of what causes me problems when I’m reading Lilith’s Brood is that I can’t picture the Oankali, so I can’t truly understand the human’s reactions to them. I know from reading Lilith’s Brood that they are bipedal with two arms—four if they are an ooloi—so they vaguely resemble humans. Oankali are hair-less with greyish colored skin and have tentacles covering their heads and bodies. They use these tentacles to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell; they function as sensory organs. There are dense clusters of the tentacles near an Oankali’s eyes, ears, and throat.

When Lilith is first introduced to Jdahya, she is frightened by the sensory tentacles that remind her of Medusa’s snakes, and I was similarly repulsed reading it (13). However, as I’ve almost finished Lilith’s Brood, I find myself less offended when reading about the Oankalis’ appearances. I’d liked to say this is because I’ve grown and learned to accept their appearances, like Lilith, but, in reality, I know it’s because I have a tendency to imagine them to as close to human as possible when reading about them. This makes it easier for me to ignore what I would have trouble accepting if I were to truly encounter them, which I know is not what Octavia Butler would want. To make it easier for me to understand what the human characters feel when they see the Oankali, I decided to google if anyone had tried to illustrate these alien creatures. These are some of the pictures I found striking:

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The Greater Freedom of Identity and Sexual Orientation in Oankali Society

When I was reading the fourth section of Imago’s first chapter “Metamorphosis,” I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not Octavia Butler made the conversation between Jodahs and Nikanj resemble a conversation between a human child and his or her parent on purpose. While we still hear a lot of stories of human parents rejecting their child’s sense of identity or their sexual orientation, basically declining the validity of their perceived nature, the Oankali once again seem to be a step ahead of human society. I found the dialogue between Jodahs and his same-sex parent, Nikanj, beautiful and truly inspiring. Our society has a lot to learn from the Oankali, and from Nikanj in particular, who responds in a wonderfully accepting and caring way to its child’s worries and insecurities.

Nikanj carefully approaches Jodahs about the child’s fear of becoming ooloi (the third sex responsible for mediating between Oankali females and males) by letting its offspring know that it doesn’t want to push it toward the Human or the Oankali extreme, but rather wants its child “to develop as [it] should in every way” (546). Nikanj attentively listens to Jodahs and tells it that “there is no flaw in [it]” (547). We then get an insight into Jodah’s mind and learn that “its [parent’s] words gave a security nothing else could have” (547). In this way, Butler might have intended to emphasize the great importance of parental acceptance and unconditional love, which are two of the single most important aspects in a child’s life. Because it doesn’t want to hurt or cause any trouble for its family, Jodahs asks Nikanj if it could become male if it could change its shape. And Nikanj empathically responds by asking it if it “still wants to be male” (547). Thereupon we witness the child’s claim of its own identity, asking itself a significant rhetorical question: “Had I ever wanted to be male?” (547). At this moment, Jodahs realizes that it had just assumed it was male, and would have no choice in the matter. Moreover, it always thought that it could protect his family from being verbally or physically attacked and that “people wouldn’t be as hard on [Nikanj] if [it] were male” (547).

Toward the end of their conversation, Jodahs becomes more aware of what it truly wants and comes to the conclusion that it “wouldn’t want to give up being what [it is]” (548). Thus, only because of its parent’s acceptance and understanding, it recognizes that it really wants (and is meant) to be ooloi. However, Jodahs continues to wish it didn’t, because it doesn’t want to cause his family any trouble. Yet, Nikanj continues to support its child and emboldens it to stick to its true identity, reassuring it that: “You want to be what you are. That’s healthy and right for you” (548). These are what I believe to be the most encouraging, kind, and honest words a parent could (and should) tell their child in distress, especially, but not exclusively, when it comes to gender and sexual orientation.



Inspiration Everywhere

As I began to compose my draft for my Inspire paper, I first asked myself the very broad and general question, “What exactly inspires me?” For a minute or two, I was completely stumped. I felt as if the answer should have came easily. I expected it to roll right off of my tongue. But for a second, I really needed to actually consider what exactly inspires me. I also needed to unpack what exactly my definition of inspiration is.

I decided that for me, inspiration refers to something that makes me feel compelled to do something for the greater good. This is tweaked slightly from Merriam Webster’s definition of “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.” In my case, I believe that inspiration is more of an emotion that I can feel building up in my chest, urging me to participate in a deemed “good” or possibly, “creative” act.  Read more

Social Climate Change and the Xenogenisis Trilogy

After my research abroad on the concept of social climate change over the summer in Dakar, Senegal, I find it difficult to not relate climate change back to almost all things I learn about.  Social climate change explains how the changing climate affects the way people interact with each other, themselves and their surroundings.  A war is referenced several times during both Dawn and Adulthood Rites as the reason their planet was destroyed.  This leads me to wonder the immensity that humans will go to, to ruin their environment and each other. Read more

Gender as a Social Construct and Way of Understanding

This past Thursday, I attended a panel discussion titled “Trans? Fine by Me”. This student-organized event featured a panel of three students and two members of faculty, all of whom are part of the Geneseo community as well as the transgender community. This event helped me to realize and expand my thoughts on something that I have been considering throughout this course, which began as a seed of an idea that Butler’s works planted in my head.

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