Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship Awarded

Painting from cover of book "Kindred" depicting two women's busts, back to back, with hour glass between their heads

By: Ellen C. Caldwell

I was awarded a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship (2020-2021) for the project “Visualizing the Transhistorical Body on the Book Covers of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred.” The project includes primary research focusing on the art historical analysis of images, photographs, and design involved in bringing together 40 years of covers to illustrate Kindred.

This project analyzes the strikingly different illustrations and imagery used on Octavia E. Butler’s book covers for her best-selling novel “Kindred.” Over the past four decades, cover artists have focused on different angles of the novel, moving from depicting the protagonists’ faces and silhouettes, to their bodies, to fragmented parts of the body. Drawing on archival research from the Octavia E. Butler Papers at the Huntington Library, this project compares imagery on the book covers, tying them to the sociopolitical themes of the novel and to the times in which they were produced. Based on artist interviews and primary research, this project visually analyzes book covers, exploring imagery in relation to literary themes such as speculative fiction, language, and Afrofuturism.

This project continues original research for a larger co-authored project with Dr. Christine Montgomery (California State University, Sacramento) that began as a chapter for The Bloomsbury Handbook to Octavia E. Butler.

If you are a community college professor and want to learn more about this fellowship opportunity, I encourage you to check out the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships resources here.

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