Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ingrid Nelson


Black Women’s writing is ultimately a study in intersectionality and, as such, formalism provides a productive ontology for parsing the intersections of various forms. Using formal theorists Anna Kornbluh and Caroline Levine’s works as a starting point, this thesis examines the formal treatment of the body, mind, and community in Black Women’s Science Fiction and Fantasy (BWSFF), specifically in the works of N.K. Jemisin and Octavia Butler. The act of defining genre is a historically informed act. As such, this thesis demarcates BWSFF as its own distinct genre because of its treatment of the aforementioned forms. Furthermore, the works within the BWSFF genre form a canon that runs counter to the mainstream white canon. Octavia Butler has said that she “wrote herself” in her novels., I argue that by doing so the project of the genre has become not only to represent the black body in fictive spaces but also to illustrate a path of resistance to white supremacy.This path of resistance begins with the physical body: the body is the site of prolepsis between the historical past and imagined future in these novels, and reproductive agency figures heavily in the conception of the Black female body as a form. This form of the black female body in turn affects the form of the mind and opposes the current capitalist hegemony by introducing the concept of personal generativity or creation for its own sake. Finally, the forms of the body and mind converge as BWSFF is about building healthy and strong communities as a way to protect the Black body and mind. The texts comprising BWSFF provide a roadmap to community care and activism. In short, the counter canon -- of which BWSFF is part -- is the canon of modern social movements; more broadly, BWSFF is a matrilineal tool



Number of Pages

71 p.