Living Technologies


This week in Joseph Lemelin’s Living Technologies, students are embarking on the opening pages of Octavia Butler’s Dawn, the first book of her Xenogenesis Series. Here are the book’s first lines.


Still alive.

Alive. . . again.

This reading is part of a unit of Joseph’s class dedicated to “Weird Life,” which has as its guiding question: “How do we clearly communicate our perspectives, thoughts, and ideas to others who may be completely unfamiliar with our perspectives, thoughts, and ideas?” Octavia Butler, who was a cultural touchstone for a recent essay by Hilton Als about the black body, Prince, Beyoncé, and Cecil Taylor, wrote to cross over this boundary. Als says she found freedom in fantasy. As Dawn opens the body, a black body, is reanimated. Crossing over is not always easy.

Lilith Iyapo lay gasping, shaking with the force of her effort. Her heart beat too fast, too loud. She curled around it, fetal, helpless. Circulation began to return to her arms and legs in flumes of minute, exquisite pains.

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