How does Kindred present and explore questions of racial identity? Questions of personal vs. cultural identity?

While reading and discussing Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred, we have encountered and addressed different kinds/ways of reading certain characters, plots/subplots, themes, setting, etc. Each of these elements (and our interpretation of them) have informed our understanding of the novel’s meaning(s).

We have also spent time with various schools of Literary Theory or the “different lenses critics use to view and talk about art, literature, and even culture” (Purdue OWL). These theoretical frameworks offer the opportunity to explore literature as it exists within a broader context. The text, then, becomes not just a text but an entry point into a larger, more meaningful conversation that can extend from the political to the socioeconomic to the historical to the culture.


For this first formal essay of the semester, I am asking you to pose a question about Kindred that demands further investigation. In composing an answer or argument that responds to your point of inquiry, I would like you to use either Critical Race Theory or Postcolonial Criticism as your chosen “lens.” Please note that these are not the only two literary theories one could use to investigate Kindred. If you are interested in proposing a separate school of literary criticism, please email me a brief proposal.

Finally, keep in mind that this is not a course on literary theory so I do not expect you to be experts in formal literary criticism. However, your essay should be able to comprehensively explore an aspect of Kindred via one of the critical lenses we have introduced in this unit. The bottom of this assignment sheet offers some possible questions for you to consider as you begin the pre-writing process.

Critical Race Theory: Starting Points
How does Kindred present and explore questions of racial identity? Questions of personal vs. cultural identity?
What person(s) or groups does Kindred identify as “other” or stranger? How are such persons/groups described and treated?
How does Kindred describe or engage with issues of internalized racism, colorism, and/or generational trauma related to institutionalized racism?
How does Kindred draw attention to the experiences of victims of American slavery in addition to the experiences of their oppressors?
Postcolonial Criticism: Starting Points
What does Kindred reveal about the politics and/or psychology of anti-colonialist resistance?
What does Kindred reveal about the complexities of post-colonial identity, including the relationship between personal and cultural identity?
What does Kindred reveal about how cultural difference – the ways in which race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, cultural beliefs, and customs combine to form individual identity – operates to shape our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live?

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