Women of the future : gender, technology, and cyborgs in Frank Herbert's dune

Authors: Evans, Carrie Lynn
Advisor: Marcoux, Jean-Philippe
Abstract: Evans argues for the merits of a cyborgian reading of Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction novel, Dune, on the basis that the novel’s particular conception of science and technology allows many of the characters to be understood as New Wave iterations of the cyborg. First published in 1965, Dune includes female characters uncharacteristic for the genre during this period due to the degree of their intelligence, formidable fighting powers, and seeming freedom from emotional weakness. However, the novel is ambivalent about its super-women: despite their admirable qualities, they are otherwise depicted in retrogressive stereotypes, representing the instinctual sex, naturally best limited to roles of mothers, lovers, and wives; by the novel’s conclusion they are cast as villains. This particular characterization of women shares many qualities with the trope of the female cyborg that becomes common in mass media science fiction of later decades. Therefore, this thesis argues that a cyborgian reading of Dune complements and augments a gender analysis of the novel because this approach incorporates an essential theorization of the reactions to technology that, according to Evans, are interwoven into the novel’s patriarchal response to women. Although these fictional creatures were not yet common at the time of Dune’s writing, Jessica and other characters in the novel can be read nonetheless as early examples of cyborgs because they physically embody their culture’s science and technology, and are consistent with other important hallmarks of the figure. The argument is that Herbert’s depiction of women in Dune does not just arise from an appeal to male chauvinism and misogyny, but is, in fact, strongly influenced by a fear of technology that is projected onto women, as is commonly seen in later cyborg literature. According to such a reading, the novel foreshadows the later cyborg sub-genre of science fiction.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2016
Open Access Date: 24 April 2018
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/27138
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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