Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Project Proposal

Samuel Li
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
19 November 2014
Proposal: Lilith’s Namesake
Lilith’s Brood presents an alternative interpretation of traditional Abrahamic mythology, specifically regarding the creation of man, and the demon Lilith’s role. The interpretation is different, in that Lilith is casted as the protagonist, whereas in Abrahamic lore, she was casted out and branded as a demon. By challenging the popular interpretations, it challenges the foundation on which most Western morals were built on. And, of course, by challenging what and where our morals come from, we can find our flaws, and replace outdated traditions and ideals with more progressive ones.
This could easily be argued by challenging my interpretation of how the characters translate over into Christian figures, or by challenging that Butler’s argument subverts common Western morality. Or, they could argue that Western moral principles do not borrow heavily from Christianity, or they could argue that Butler’s argument (or, at least what I interpret it to be) is wrong. The “main” area to dispute would probably be about my interpretation of Butler and the novel, and its commentary on society and the world through an allegory on Lilith.
In Abrahamic lore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, made from the same material as him, and was so his “equal” (as opposed to Eve, who was made from Adam’s rib, and thus considered his inferior). She repeated refused to submit to Adam, and eventually sinned by saying God’s true name out loud. Then, she left the Garden of Eden, and refused to return. In some variants, she later becomes the snake that tempts Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Outside of the Garden, she copulates with demons, and has a reputation of being promiscuous. While she doesn’t appear much in Bible, to the point that people debate her canonicity, she still had a profound cultural impact, in literature and the arts. So regardless of her presence in the original versions of the Bible, her impact on culture is undeniable.
What’s interesting about this book’s take on Lilith is that Lilith is the protagonist, and the roles are reversed, in a way, and thus, the messages are also reversed. In the original versions of the tale, she, the independent woman, is contrasted with Eve, the submissive woman. The original implication was that her independence and refusal to submit was portrayed as negative, but in Lilith’s Brood, it’s portrayed as positive. Similarly, taking the forbidden fruit, or the genetic modification that Lilith “tempts” the humans to use, is portrayed as the logical and optimal course of action, rather than a sin. And so on. This being so, the reversal of the original ideas in the myth lends the novel an interesting perspective to look at.

Butler, Octavia E. Lilith’s Brood (Dawn). New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2000. Print.
Hunt, Mary E. The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics, 1972-2003. 74 Vol. CARY: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Plaskow, Judith. "The Coming of Lilith": A Response." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 23.1 (2007): 34-41.

Vague outline:
blah blah feminism blah
Relevant parts of Lilith’s myth
creation, snake/fruit of knowledge, cast out of eden
Lilith’s Brood and how it connects
who’s who, what’s what
lilith = lilith (heh)
oankali = demons, “humanity” = god, fruit of knowledge = enhancements
What these connections mean
role reversal, etc etc
Gender/sexuality commentary
embrace sexuality?
lilith doesn’t submit, good job lilith
Good and evil, authority and stuff


  1. This interpretation of Lilith's Brood is fascinating. I never would have thought that this could parallel the Bible, but your proposal makes sense. There is a clear and possible counter to your argument, which is also good. I think you could still do a lot of different things with this essay and make a bunch of valid and interesting points. The only place you must be careful is making the Bible and Lilith relate without being too wordy. The connection should (and is) so there that the reader could almost make it on their own. Wonderful ideas though, the final essay should be good.

  2. This is a perfectly reasonable approach. It's also reasonably well-trodden territory, so my biggest question is this: what is your agenda, or what is your particular reason or entering into this territory? Implicitly, I assume that you find value in this particular transformation or transvaluation of Abrahamic religion - but what is that value? I'm certainly on board with this project, as long as you stay focused not only on what the transformation of Abrahamic religion means - rather than just demonstrating that it *happens*.

    You really, really want to read the other two novels for this argument to work well. Lilith's "medusa children" are powerfully relevant here, and are likely o help you figure out your *particular* direction.


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