Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Grant explores connections between literature and environment

Through a Spotlight on Humanities in Higher Education Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities University of Redlands faculty will lead students and community members in a broad study of Octavia Butler's 1993 novel Parable of the Sower.  

Heather King is an English professor at the U of R and is the Faculty Advisor for Sigma Tau Delta, an English Honor Society.

The grant, written by English Professor Heather King, provides $60,000 for a two-year project built around Parable of the Sower, which imagines post-apocalyptic life in Southern California in 2024. The project will engage with the novel from multiple perspectives, like GIS mapping applications. Parable of the Sower investigates the connection between humans and nature; faculty from environmental studies will help develop those themes. This interdisciplinary approach is part of how the humanities prepares students for a variety of futures. 

In the first year of the grant, professors from the History, English, Religious Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies, School of Education, Environmental Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Outdoor Programs departments will share expertise in mapping software, and in the 2024-2025 academic year will infuse their new pedagogical skills into their curriculum.  

Students in selected courses will read the book and write essays on it for a blog on the University of Redlands website. At the same time, the community will be invited to read Parable of the Sower  through the One City, One Book program, with events hosted at the A.K. Smiley Public Library. During the spring, the project will culminate with lectures and panel discussions open to the public on Parable of the Sower, its themes, and Afrofuturism. The Artlands, a Redlands gallery, will curate a show on Afrofuturism to synch up with the events. In May, students from the Redlands campus will have the chance to explore the sequel, Parable of the Talents, in Marin. 

The University is also partnering with Crafton Hills College where Parable will be the campus read for the next year. Both Redlands High School and Redlands East Valley High School are also partnering to bring the project to even more students. They will be doing "humanist work together so that the meaning of a text is something that they share across campuses," King said. "It's not faculty delivering their wisdom from on high to the community, it's learning from and with members of the community, to create a new understanding of the text." 

King thanks the colleagues who are part of the project, including:  

Sharon Oster, English 

John Glover, History 

Lillian Larsen and Julius Bailey, Religious Studies 

Jennifer Nelson and Priya Jha, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 

Jennifer Tilton, Race and Ethnic Studies 

Kavita Boyer, Environmental Studies (an alumna) 

Rebecca Lyons, Chemistry 

Julie Townsend, Johnston Center for Integrative Studies 

Breean Lindsey, Outdoor Programs 

Nicol Howard, dean, School of Education 

Chris Ocker, Graduate School of Theology 

Peter Tupou ’04 

Local partners: 

Corinne Flowers, Redlands High School 

Sean Malloy, Redlands East Valley 

Ryan Bartlett, Crafton Hills Community College 

To learn more about academics at the U of R, click this link.