Visual Schemas and Parable of the Sower

Earlier this evening, I was browsing The Rumpus and found a comic book review by Kevin Thomas of Butler’s Parable of the Sower:

Most of the class hasn’t read Parable of the Sower (and it’s not on the syllabus) but Thomas’ illustrations strikes me as a powerful reminder of a book I found deeply moving. I’m interested in the way he constructs the plot of the novel –from an introduction to Lauren Olamina to the establishment of Earthseed–as a visual schema, imbued by his own commentary. Obviously, his 9-panel comic only scratches the surface of a demanding and complex book (to use Beth’s phrase, Butler is not a gratuitous author), but he illuminates some important aspects of the novel, most notably the comment that “its [the novel’s dystopia] causes and effects are sadly plausible.” Thomas is correct:  I find myself thinking of the troubling, chaotic America Butler evokes in Parable at least three times a week. This is particularly true during weeks like these, where we are again confronted with a devastating intersection of environmental havoc and political instability.

I can’t draw, but I like to think that if I could draw I would make similar diagrams to map out my own understanding of ideas as I read challenging material. Actually, I now realize that I am making visual schemas to map out ideas, through my involvement in Geneseo’s Digital Humanities community with Dr. Schacht.  Arguably, Thomas’ book review is a small-scale example of one way DH can enhance our understanding of literature, particularly for students who learn visually or spatially.  At any rate, I’m glad I accidentally found this small, poignant reinterpretation of Parable that enabled me to see some things anew.

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