Student Services Overview

DATE: Thursday, June 26, 2014
TIME: 1:30 p.m
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Ayana Ain Harris Jamieson
DISSERTATION TITLE: "“Certainty of the Flesh”: A Biomythographical Reading of Octavia E. Butler’s Fictions"
CHAIR: Dr. Jennifer Selig
READER: Dr. Alan Kilpatrick

Jamieson, A. (2014). “Certainty of the Flesh”: A Biomythographical Reading of Octavia E. Butler’s Fictions (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014)


Octavia E. Butler remains a highly acclaimed and influential Black female science fiction author whose popularity has only increased since her death in 2006. While Butler and her literary work are celebrated within and among diverse communities of readers and scholars, little attention has been paid to ways in which the psychology of Butler’s speculative fiction and life shape and give rise to understanding personal and collective mythologies, time, history, culture, and geography.

This performance autoethnographic dissertation maps Octavia Butler’s life and literary work using intersectional depth psychological inquiry from Afro-Future feminist perspectives. Somatescape—a set of biomythographic praxes—is introduced and employed in multiple readings of Butler’s early life. I read Butler’s novels, short stories, interviews, and archival papers intertextually for emergent themes and as mythical images. I also employ the term palimpsestuous to signify ways that Butler’s life and work are palimpsestic and incestuous in relationship to one another and collective history.

This research reveals ways that hyperempathy syndrome, positive obsession, archetypal change, and other tropes from Butler’s work have been documented in depth psychological literature. Butler’s work expands the ever-evolving field of depth psychology and represents a radical, unpredictable, and embodied engagement with the Other. The research also sophisticates and complicates scholarship within the expanding field of Octavia Butler Studies. Finally, this project begins to flesh out the reverberating impact and scope of Butler’s legacy as it continues to inspire intentional communities.

Key words: Octavia E. Butler, biomythograhy, mythology, California, Embodiment, Science Fiction, hyperempathy syndrome, palimpsestuous, Afrofuturist, Black Women.


Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.