American Literature Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Dune Series
by
Don Riggs
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0201

Introduction

Frank Herbert was born on 8 October 1920 in Tacoma, Washington, to Frank Patrick Herbert Sr. and Eileen (McCarthy) Herbert. In 1938 he graduated from high school and moved to Southern California, where he lied about his age to work for the Glendale Star, the first of many newspaper jobs. He married Flora Parkinson in 1940 and they had one daughter, Penny, but they divorced in 1945. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, joining the Seabees, but was given a medical discharge six months later. In 1946 he entered the University of Washington. He met Beverly Ann Stuart in a creative writing class, and they married in June that year. They had two sons, Brian Patrick (1947) and Bruce Calvin (1951). Brian would himself become a writer, continuing his father’s Dune series with sequels and prequels, as well as a 2003 biography, Dreamer of Dune. Bruce would become a photographer and LGBT activist, and died of AIDS in 1993. Herbert published his first story, “Survival of the Cunning,” which was not science fiction, in Esquire in 1945; his first science fiction story, “Looking for Something,” appeared in 1952 in Startling Stories. He published his first science fiction novel in 1956: based on a story titled “Under Pressure,” the 1956 novel was titled The Dragon of the Sea, and was reprinted with the title 21st-Century Sub. Many of the themes from this work would appear in the later Dune novels. During these years, Herbert wrote for various newspapers, but took time off to work on his fiction; his wife Beverly worked as an advertising copywriter. A newspaper assignment to cover the USDA’s effort to reclaim dune lands inspired much background research—over 200 books, according to Brian Herbert’s biography—and resulted in the novel Dune, which was initially published in editor John W. Campbell’s magazine Analog in 1963 and 1964; after twenty rejections, Chilton Books, an auto-repair manual publisher, offered to publish it, which it did in 1965. Dune won the Hugo Award that year, and tied for the Nebula Award in 1966. It became an underground cult classic and ultimately the greatest-selling science fiction novel of all time. Herbert wrote the novel with his wife Beverly’s constant response and comments, and he modeled the Lady Jessica on her. Herbert wrote five sequels, generally regarded as being of lesser quality than Dune itself. However, much of the scholarship analyzes the original novel in the “universe” established within the series of sequels, so Dune appears in relation to the novels from Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune in particular.

Biographies and General Overviews

Herbert’s biography by his son Brian, Herbert 2003, is the most extensive and detailed. O’Reilly’s study of Dune’s origin in research for a newspaper article supplemented with interviews, O’Reilly 1978, and his larger consideration of the career of Herbert’s writing, O’Reilly 1981, link the author’s life with his novel. Toupence 1988 similarly links Herbert’s life with his writing, and attempts an overview of both.

  • Herbert, Brian. Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert. New York: Tor, 2003.

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    Brian Herbert’s biography of his father discusses many of the sources that went into the writing of Dune, including Frank Herbert’s research on desertification in Oregon, semantics, comparative religions, and his father’s use of a polygraph machine to ascertain whether his boys had misbehaved, a possible source of the Gom Jabbar. Also included is the great influence Herbert’s second wife Bev had on the novel.

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  • O’Reilly, Timothy. Frank Herbert. New York: Ungar, 1981.

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    This book considers Dune the central achievement of Herbert’s career, and Herbert’s other fiction and essays affirm the theme of adaptation for survival in a constantly changing universe. O’Reilly, who interviewed Herbert and his wife Beverly and read editor John W. Campbell’s correspondence with Herbert, also considers Herbert’s novels Under Pressure, The Santaroga Barrier—with an emphasis on the influence of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger—and Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

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  • O’Reilly, Timothy. “From Concept to Fable: The Evolution of Frank Herbert’s Dune.” In Critical Encounters: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. Edited by Dick Riley, 41–55. New York: Ungar, 1978.

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    This essay discusses Herbert’s never-published magazine article on reclaiming dunes and the research Herbert did for it. Much of the chapter contains rudimentary thematic analysis of the novel, but O’Reilly draws on an “unpublished interview with Frank and Beverly Herbert” by Willis McNelly in 1969 and another by O’Reilly himself in 1978.

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  • Toupence, William F. Frank Herbert. Twayne United States Author Series. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988.

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    Toupence sketches Frank Herbert’s biography, emphasizing environmentalism and developing a sustainable lifestyle on his farm. All six Dune novels are discussed, with a final chapter assessing some of Herbert’s other novels, but the book devotes a chapter to Dune itself, following Herbert’s notes and interviews. Using Bakhtin’s and Herbert’s references to polyphony and improvisation, Toupence calls the work an “ecological fugue” that avoids the closure of the traditional novel.

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Bibliography

Levack and Willard 1988 is the only extant printed bibliography of Herbert’s works. Meyers 1990 summarizes Levack and Willard’s strengths and weaknesses, and points to alternative areas researchers could explore.

  • Levack, Daniel J. H., with annotations by Mark Willard. Dune Master: A Frank Herbert Bibliography. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1988.

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    This is a compilation of as many of Herbert’s works published by 1987 as the authors could find or find reference to, but Levack and Willard did not actually see all of the works listed, and of course they were unable to predict the posthumously published works that Brian Herbert found.

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  • Meyers, Walter E. “A Herbert Bibliography” (review). Science Fiction Studies 17.2 (July 1990): 282–284.

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    Meyers discusses the limitations of Levack and Willard 1988 and also points to sources that could be treasure troves for scholars who would benefit by a knowledge of collections of material like letters and notebooks that Levack and Willard do not summarize.

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Reference Works

McNelly 1984 is widely referenced, but is not a reliable source, as it has much fictional material not in Herbert’s own writings. Palumbo 2018 is a faithful encyclopedia of names, places, and concepts.

  • McNelly, Willis E., ed. The Dune Encyclopedia. New York: Berkley, 1984.

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    Despite its introductory blurb by Frank Herbert, this is not a scholarly reference work on Dune or its sequels; it is a work of fan fiction, as well as a parody of the kind of scholarship used to introduce chapters in the original novel. Toupence sees the creative additions to Herbert’s universe as an extension of Herbert’s anti-closural aesthetic.

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  • Palumbo, Donald E. A Dune Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in Frank Herbert’s Original Six Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018.

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    Dune and Herbert’s five sequels are analyzed in terms of Chaos Theory and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, the basic plot structure of quest narratives, in the fifty-five-page introduction; the rest of the book is an encyclopedia of characters, places, organizations, etc. in Herbert’s Dune series.

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Anthologies of Essays

These two books compile essays written for the anthologies, apparently for use in college courses. Grazier 2009a brings together various essays assessing the real science behind or contradicting elements of the fictional world, and Nicholas 2011a compiles essays analyzing aspects of the novels in relation to philosophical problems. Individual essays from these collections are treated separately, with a bibliographical indication of the anthology where they appear.

  • Grazier, Kevin, ed. The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009a.

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    Sixteen chapters by sixteen authors examine concepts from the geriatric/psychotropic drug mélange to anthropology of people on Dune to antigravity suspensors, the ecology of the planet, and other topics. Most of the authors are science writers, so their entries are well supported and readable.

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  • Nicholas, Jeffery, ed. Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Chicago: Open Court, 2011a.

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    Philosophical implications and questions raised by Dune are grouped into five categories: Ecology, Politics, Ethics, Self, and Heroism.

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Criticism

Because Dune and its sequels involve such a complex interweaving of themes, the critical works on it tend to focus principally on one of these themes to the partial or total exclusion of others. The following sections on criticism are listed according to the dominant thematic focus of the essays, starting with Biology and moving alphabetically to Space and Appropriate Technology.

Biology

Three of the articles listed here are from Grazier 2009a (cited under Anthologies of Essays) on the science of Dune, and one is from Nicholas 2011a (also cited under Anthologies of Essays) on Dune and philosophy. Field 2009 limits its focus to the Tleilaxu, so it doesn’t deal directly with Dune itself. Hart 2009 focuses precisely on the Bene Gesserit breeding program that produced Paul in relation to selective breeding in the real world. Hechtel 2009 analyzes the giant sandworm in relation to conditions and flora/fauna on Earth. Semler 2011 considers both the Bene Gesserit breeding program and the manipulations of the Tleilaxu in relation to Plato and 20th-century experiments.

  • Field, Sandy. “Evolution by Any Means on Dune.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 67–81. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Field assesses manipulated evolution in Dune and some of the sequels to judge whether they are extrapolations from the genetics of Herbert’s day or examples of “pure science fiction.” She focuses on the Tleilaxu Face Dancers, considering hormonal influence on neurons, and their axlotl tanks, reminding us that the Tleilaxu are very secretive about this technology, so it is particularly difficult to come up with scientific explanations for them.

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  • Hart, Carol. “From Silver Fox to Kwisatz Haderach: The Possibilities of Selective Breeding Programs.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 59–65. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    The Bene Gesserit multigenerational breeding program is assessed in relation to artificial versus natural selection in human experience, with the unexpected emergence of Paul Atreides as either the Kwisatz Haderach or “something different” arising from incomplete awareness of the interactivity of different genes. The title of the article is derived from a multigenerational Russian breeding experiment with foxes.

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  • Hechtel, Sybille. “The Biology of the Sandworm.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 29–47. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Hechtel considers aspects of Dune’s sandworms concerning how the sandtrout could generate the spice, how worms might move through the sand, to physiology needed on a waterless planet, to various stages from sandtrout to the enormous Shai-Hulud of the Deep Desert, and after close comparisons between Herbert’s descriptions of the creature and possible parallels on Earth, she concludes that no such creature could exist in terrestrial conditions, although she suggests they might live on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Good bibliography.

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  • Semler, Stephanie. “The Golden Path of Eugenics.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 13–26. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    The Bene Gesserit breeding program is likened to eugenics in 20th-century politics and ideology as well as in Plato’s Republic. The antidote for the excessive limitation of gene types—for breeding “for” certain traits and not others—is shown to be corrected during the long reign of Leto II, who sacrifices himself so as to free humanity from the stranglehold of the Bene Gesserit and Tleilaxu genetic manipulation.

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Chaos Theory

Palumbo 1997 and Palumbo 2002 explain and apply Chaos Theory to the original six Dune novels by Frank Herbert with both many specific examples used in the texts and in an overview placing all of the novels in a fractal pattern as a whole. Racicot 2006 includes Chaos Theory along with other “postmodern” sciences in his analysis of Dune and makes analogies with the work of Borges and Escher.

  • Palumbo, Donald. “‘Plots within Plots . . . Patterns within Patterns’: Chaos-Theory Concepts and Structures in Frank Herbert’s Dune Novels.” In Special Issue: Selected Papers from the Seventeenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Edited by Carl B. Yoke. Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 8.1 (29) (1997): 55–77.

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    Later incorporated into Palumbo 2002, this article was an earlier presentation of the application of Chaos Theory to Dune without reference to works by Isaac Asimov.

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  • Palumbo, Donald E. Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: The Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science Fiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

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    Chaos Theory is shown to be applicable in the structure, plot, and thematic analysis of many of Isaac Asimov’s works and Herbert’s Dune series, itself heavily influenced by Asimov’s Foundation metaseries. Dune is shown to be hard science fiction due to its unconscious integration of Chaos Theory on the structural, plot, and thematic levels.

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  • Racicot, Daniel. “Science-fiction et connaissance: Les discours de la science postmoderne dans Dune de Frank Herbert.” Masters thesis in Etudes littéraires, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 2006.

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    In Racicot’s thesis, Dune is analyzed through the “postmodern sciences” of Chaos Theory, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and two contemporaries of Herbert’s, Borges and Escher. Racicot does close readings from Dune showing how feints reflect Chaos Theory and imitate the movement of dunes that inflects the novel’s plot and themes. Excellent bibliography.

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Consciousness

Ferner 2011 analyzes the spice-inflected consciousness of some Dune denizens in relation to John Locke’s insight that being human involves conscious memory. Hart 2009 considers mélange in the context of real-world psychotropic drugs and serotonin release. Manlove 1986 focuses more on states of wariness and openings to the unconscious.

  • Ferner, Adam. “Memories Are Made of Spice.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 161–174. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Ferner uses Dune in relation to John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, showing how Locke’s notion that a human is not only a physical object, but a consciousness, which necessarily involves memory. Ferner points to difficulties caused by Lady Jessica’s influx of “other memory” from the spice trance. Other difficulties are brought out by Alia’s loss of control of her self to the “remembered” consciousness of her grandfather, the Baron Harkonnen.

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  • Hart, Carol. “Melange.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 2–19. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Hart alternates between anecdotes from her personal experience and summaries of scientific studies and historical experiments, often drawing attention to parallels between those and incidents in Dune. Topics include LSD, ayahuasca, serotonin release in the human body, the significance of cultural context in relation to individuals’ experience of these drugs and mélange, and assessments of actions from the novel in the light of these “real-world” facts. Very good bibliography.

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  • Manlove, Colin. “Frank Herbert, Dune.” In Science Fiction: Ten Explorations. By Colin Manlove, 79–99. Kent State, OH: Kent State University Press, 1986.

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    Manlove focuses on Dune, emphasizing the themes of concealment, wariness, mind, the false security of stasis, and the tension of opposites. He observes that the reader is forced, like Paul, to go through states of uncertainty and to come to realizations wrested from the unconscious. His endnotes (pp. 230–231), especially note 1, provide an excellent list of sources with his evaluation of their usefulness.

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Ecology and Environment

The essays on ecology and the environment are centrifugal, relating the novel to the real-world environments and the historical contexts of the environmental movement, as it influenced and was influenced by the novel. Clarke 2015 places the novel in the context of the Gaia Hypothesis; Day’s dissertation, Day 2014, focuses on the use of water; and Ellis 1990 places the novel in relation to American cultural memes of environmental collapse of the period. Both Lawrence 2009 and Lorenz 2009 (both included in Grazier 2009a, cited under Anthologies of Essays) focus on specific Earth environments analogous to those on the fictional planet. Pak 2016 puts the novel in the context of the science-fictional theme of terraforming. The early and oft-cited article Schmitt-von Muhlenfels 1987 is perhaps the Urtext of environmental Dune criticism. Silliman 1997 discusses Herbert’s environmentalism along with other concerns characterizing the author. Stratton 2001 views Dune in the context of other eco-focused science fiction.

  • Clarke, Bruce. “The Planetary Imaginary: Gaian Ecologies from Dune to Neuromancer.” In Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet. Edited by Bruce Clarke, 151–174. New York: Fordham, 2015.

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    Clarke sees the concept of Gaia, of ecosystem embracing both biotic and abiotic components of life in one all-encompassing network, in both Dune and Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind (the essays in which were published earlier, roughly contemporaneously with Dune). Dune is seen as an early articulation of the Gaia Hypothesis.

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  • Day, Jathan E. “Water as Power in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Masters thesis in English, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2014.

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    Day analyzes the element of water in Dune as a catalyst of political power and change, as a religious image, and as a driving force for technology: water as an image of the paradise the Fremen strive to build, as inspiring the invention of the stillsuit and reclaiming the body’s water at death. Good bibliography and summary of the literature on water in Dune.

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  • Ellis, R. J. “Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Discourse of Apocalyptic Ecologism in the United States.” In Science Fiction Roots and Branches. Edited by R. Garnett and R. J. Ellis, 104–124. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990.

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    Ellis places Dune in the context of earlier and concurrent American fears of environmental catastrophe, using Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring as a contemporary expression of a similar view and Paul Bigelow Sears’s 1935 Deserts on the March as a significant source for Herbert’s worldview. Ellis uses the poststructuralist literary theories of Pierre Macherey. Excellent endnotes.

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  • Lawrence, David M. “The Shade of Uliet: Musings on the Ecology of Dune.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 217–232. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Lawrence analyzes Pardot Kynes’ plan for terraforming Arrakis in relation to both deliberate and accidental greening of Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic, from the mid-19th century on, taking into account extensive parallels between Arrakis and Ascencion, as a microcosmic Dune. There is no bibliography, as much of the description of Ascension Island is the author’s direct observation.

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  • Lorenz, Ralph D. “The Dunes of Dune: The Planetology of Arrakis.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 49–58. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Lorenz uses work done in Libya to compare the flow of dunes on Earth to dunes on Arrakis. He confirms a Fremen’s statement that walking on the slipface of dunes is bad, as the slipface of dunes on Earth is not compounded. Studies of satellite photographs suggest that Mars is similar to Arrakis, and it has dunes, but they extend over much less of the planet’s surface.

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  • Pak, Chris. Terraforming: Ecopolitical Transformations and Environmentalism in Science Fiction. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2016.

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    Dune is mentioned briefly a dozen times, but the section “Terraforming and Ecopolitics in the Dune Sequence” (pp. 117–124) focuses on the novel and attributes to it an influential role in the development of a holistic view of the planetary environment in subsequent terraforming SF as well as the larger culture’s view of environmentalism.

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  • Schmitt-von Muhlenfels, Astrid. “The Theme of Ecology in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Vechtaer Arbeiten zur Geographie und Regionalwissenschaft 5 (1987): 27–34.

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    Schmitt-von Muhlenfels characterizes the Dune series—the original six novels by Frank Herbert—as examples of “literary ecology.” She summarizes the ecological system of Arrakis, emphasizes the consequences of the Kynes’s ecological transformation of Arrakis, ties in parallel unforeseen consequences of actions in the real world, and defines “literary ecology” as that literature that awakens readers’ awareness of consequences.

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  • Silliman, Barbara Ann. “Conserving the Balance: Frank Herbert’s Dune as Propaganda.” PhD diss., University of Rhode Island, 1997.

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    Herbert’s writing Dune as propaganda for developing ecological awareness, against following heroes, against homosexuality, and against cultural stagnation are explored in the novel, Herbert’s essays about some of these themes, and much of the prior critical literature. A doctoral dissertation, Silliman’s bibliography and contextualization of Dune in 20th-century science fiction and early 1960s American history are excellent.

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  • Stratton, Susan. “The Messiah and the Greens: The Shape of Environmental Action in Dune and Pacific Edge.” Extrapolation 42.4 (Winter 2001): 303–316.

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    Stratton applies ecocriticism to Dune and Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1988 Pacific Edge. She contrasts Le Guin’s opposition between masculine and feminine strategies—hunting and gathering—with Meeker’s opposition between tragedy (male) and comedy (female), and concludes that Dune represents the tragic hunter mode of the Messiah and Pacific Edge the more modest comic gatherer mode.

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Gender

Starting with Wendell 1979, a study of women characters in Nebula Award–winning SF novels from 1965 to 1973, most of the studies on gender in Dune acknowledge the strength, dynamism, and well-roundedness of women characters in the novel, but point out that the characters are still subservient to men and to their order, following the traditional patriarchal societal pattern. Miller 1983 presents this argument quite cogently, with many examples. Hand 1985 similarly emphasizes the masculine dominance in the novel, and the corresponding feminine submissiveness. One exception is McLean 1982, which applies Bettelheim’s Freudian approach to fairy tales to Dune, seeing Paul’s relationship to his parents as Oedipal. Evans 2016 sees the novel’s main female characters as adumbrations of cyborgs of subsequent SF.

  • Evans, Carrie Lynn. Women of the Future: Gender, Technology, and Cyborgs in Frank Herbert’s Dune. Masters diss., Université Laval, 2016.

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    Evans studies the chief female characters in Dune, particularly Jessica and Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam, finding in them proto-cyborgs of subsequent science fiction, reflecting both traditional patriarchal views of women (mothers, seductresses) and male fears of the rising feminist movements of the 1960s, when Dune was written. Extensive bibliography on feminist theory, cyborg scholarship, and reviews of Dune.

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  • Hand, Jack. “The Traditionalism of Women’s Roles in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Extrapolation 26.1 (1985): 24–28.

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    Hand sees Dune as a book dominated by the masculine, where even the most powerful women accept their roles as subservient.

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  • McLean, Susan S. “A Psychological Approach to Fantasy in the Dune Series.” Extrapolation 23.2 (1982): 150–158.

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    Following Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, McLean analyzes the fairy-tale figures of royalty, ogres, and witches in the first four Dune novels in a Freudian manner, seeing Paul’s relationship with his parents as Oedipal, as well as father-surrogates like the Emperor. The imagined world presents a struggle between the masculine and feminine, with the feminine being destructive.

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  • Miller, Miriam Youngerman. “Women of Dune: Frank Herbert as Social Reactionary?” In Women Worldwalkers: New Dimensions of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Edited by Jane B. Weedman, 181–192. Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1983.

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    Youngerman acknowledges that Dune was ahead of its time as regards many issues that would arise after its publication, but that Herbert, despite creating many dynamic, well-rounded, and capable female characters, still relegated them to traditional patriarchal postures, such as “we submit to rule.”

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  • Wendell, Carolyn. “The Alien Species: A Study of Women Characters in the Nebula Award Winners, 1965–1973.” Extrapolation 20.4 (1979): 343–354.

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    Dune, in the context of a dozen other books, is treated briefly but mainly to say that the author admires Jessica for being a “vivid and solid” character, but that she is a stereotypical woman subservient to the Bene Gesserit order and to the men—Leto and Paul—that she loves.

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History

DiTommaso 2007 ties Dune in with Gibbon and Asimov, while DiTommaso 1992 uses the Butlerian Jihad as the primal event that affected the social system of Dune; both cases suggest a history that has a frozen reaction to earlier tendencies. Hoberek 2012 and Ralston 2011 tie the novel in with recent history, although Hoberek refers to actions that took place as Dune was being composed and Ralston refers to much more recent events. Rudd 2016 refutes DiTommaso 1992 in terms of the “Vitality Struggle” between evolution and stagnation.

  • DiTommaso, Lorenzo. “History and Historical Effect in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Science Fiction Studies 19.3 (1992): 311–325.

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    DiTommaso sees Paul Muad’Dib as formed by the strictures of Imperial Society in response to the Butlerian Jihad. Paul plays a major role in the “Vitality Struggle” between evolution and stagnation, and DiTommaso poses the question whether Paul is a product of, thus determined by, the complex Imperial balance of powers, or is, as the Kwisatz Haderach, beyond historical determinism.

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  • DiTommaso, Lorenzo. “The Articulation of Imperial Decadence and Decline in Epic Science Fiction.” Extrapolation 48.2 (Summer 2007): 267–291.

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    DiTommaso compares Dune and other works to imperial decline in Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He also relates Dune to Asimov’s Foundation, opposing Gibbon’s themes of loss of moral fiber and increasing inflexibility of the Empires to the ingenuity and strength of the Fremen in surviving Harkonnen oppression and environmental pressures of Arrakis.

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  • Hoberek, Andrew. “The New Frontier: Dune, the Middle Class, and Post-1960 U. S. Foreign Policy.” In American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War: A Critical Reassessment. Edited by Steven Belletto and Daniel Grausam, 85–108. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2012.

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    Dune represents John F. Kennedy’s application of Modernization Theory. Kennedy urged improving former colonials’ material status, thereby valorizing the United States’ benefic posture, while revitalizing American society. Paul is JFK, and Baron Harkonnen is Khrushchev. Excellent endnotes.

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  • Ralston, Shane. “The American Fremen.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 53–60. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Initially evoking the young California male who was captured in Afghanistan in a Taliban uniform, Ralston draws parallels between Herbert’s Fremen and Americans, citing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and John Dewey’s emphasis on the moral equality of all people. In addition, Paul Muad’Dib is shown to be pragmatic rather than ideological.

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  • Rudd, Amanda. “Paul’s Empire: Imperialism and Assemblage Theory in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” MOSF Journal of Science Fiction 1.1 (2016).

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    Rudd refutes DiTommaso’s claim that history in Dune is linear, causal, and evolutionary with assemblage theory, calling Paul an “assemblage” of Mentat, Bene Gesserit, Atreides, and Fremen elements—thus something new. Assemblage Theory explains how Dune’s history is more dynamic than proposed by DiTommaso, though she acknowledges the importance of the “Vitality Struggle” also proposed by him.

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Language

Kennedy 2016 and Parkerson 2010 use linguistic approaches to naming and the uses of verbal and nonverbal communication. Kucera 2001 focuses on the use of multiple languages in the single text to achieve a subtlety of communication. Mack 2011 emphasizes somatic aspects of both the voice of ordinary characters and the Voice of the Bene Gesserit-trained.

  • Kennedy, Kara. “Epic World-Building: Names and Cultures in Dune.” Names 64.2 (June 2016): 99–108.

    DOI: 10.1080/00277738.2016.1159450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kennedy demonstrates how Herbert creates a “world” involving both climate and culture efficiently using a mixture of names based on various languages possibly already known to readers—Arabic, Greek, and Latin primarily—and situates characters in that world using their names. She acknowledges Edward Said’s critique of Orientalist tendencies in Western literature, but seems to assume that Herbert successfully joins Eastern and Western cultures through eclectic naming.

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  • Kucera, Paul Q. “Listening to Ourselves: Herbert’s Dune, ‘the Voice’ and Performing the Absolute.” Extrapolation 42.3 (Fall 2001): 232–245.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2001.42.3.232Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kucera applies theories of Bakhtin and Iser to language as Machiavellian manipulation in Dune, pointing out heteroglossia—multiple languages by which certain characters are seen from multiple perspectives (Paul is an Atreides, the Mahdi, Usul, Muad’Dib, the Lisan al-Gahib, the Kwisatz Haderach, etc.). There is a very good review of previous literature on the subject throughout.

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  • Mack, Robert L. “Voice Lessons: The Seductive Appeal of Vocal Control in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 22.1 (2011): 39–59.

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    Mack focuses on the “grain” of the voice, the nonverbal aspects of the spoken word such as timbre, emphasizing the voice’s role in self-control, the mother-child bond, and interaction with others.

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  • Parkerson, Ronny. “Semantics, General Semantics, and Ecology in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Et Cetera 67.4 (October 2010): 403–411.

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    Parkerson demonstrates Herbert’s background in the General Semantics of S. I. Hayakawa, and shows how various aspects of careful word use and nonverbal communication are pivotal in the plot as well as in relation to the theme of politics and interpersonal relationships.

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Literary Contexts

Christensen 2015 compares modes of using time in Dune and the Homeric epic, Grigsby 1981 shows the inverted relationship between Herbert’s work and Asimov’s trilogy, and McGuirk 1994 explores the topic of topos, or place, or more precisely the “no place” of Utopia, merely touching on Dune in relation to other examples.

  • Christensen, Joel P. “Time and Self-Referentiality in the Iliad and Frank Herbert’s Dune.” In Classical Traditions in Science Fiction. Edited by Brett M. Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens, 161–175. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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    The Iliad and Dune share mythic families named Atreides, and the two epic works share a trinocular conception of time where the narrative’s present is infused with an awareness of the past—legends and the “race memory” of Bene Gesserit spice-induced trance, and memories—and the future, through prophecy.

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  • Grigsby, John L. “Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and Herbert’s Dune Trilogy: A Vision Reversed.” Science Fiction Studies 8.2 (July 1981): 149–155.

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    Grigsby argues that Dune is indebted to Asimov’s Foundation for many of its underlying concepts, but Herbert’s novel in many instances reverses the technophilic thrust of the Asimov text, replacing Hari Seldon with Paul Muad’Dib as a prophet who sees the uncertainty inherent in any act of prophecy and whose future is seen to be always changing.

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  • McGuirk, Carol. “NoWhere Man: Towards a Poetics of Post-Utopian Characterization.” Science Fiction Studies 21.2 (July 1994): 141–154.

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    Dune is analyzed in terms of the Utopian novel’s pairing of unchanging place, or topos, and changed hero. McGuirk considers a score of examples from mostly recent science fiction, calling Dune a “visionary” novel, where hero and landscape influence each other, in contrast to More’s Utopia, Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and others. Only two paragraphs consider Dune.

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Politics

Minowitz 1997 and Melançon 2011 apply the theories of Machiavelli and von Clausewitz, respectively, to the power strategies in the Dune universe. Kerslake 2007 situates the novel in a tradition of science fiction Galactic Empire narratives. Irizarry 2013 focuses on the recurring presence of challenge in the power struggles on various levels in the novel itself. Anderson 2012 assesses Dune in the context of real-world relations between local environment and the social order. Reynolds 1983 deals with the novel, among others, from a pedagogical perspective for the social sciences.

  • Anderson, Daniel Gustav. “Critical Bioregionalist Method in Dune: A Position Paper.” In The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place. Edited by Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster, 226–242. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

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    Anderson reads Dune as an allegory of Cold War conflict in which both families are the national representatives of globalist capital, which uses nation-states as its instruments of hegemony. He uses the methodology of Frederic Jameson in his critique of late capitalism, and presents an extensive bibliography.

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  • Irizarry, Adella. “The Amtal Rule: Testing to Define in Frank Herbert’s Dune.” MA diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2013.

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    Irizarry analyzes the motif of the challenge in Dune in three contexts: the Bene Gesserit, with their Gom Jabbar and changing the Water of Life; the Fremen, with the Tahaddi Challenge and Paul’s need to become a sandrider; and the Faufreluches, where Paul challenges the Emperor himself and fights his champion, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, resolving a matter of kanly.

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  • Kerslake, Patricia. Science Fiction and Empire. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2007.

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    This book is a sweeping survey of themes and motifs regarding the use of the Empire trope in science fiction, and as such touches on Herbert’s Dune seven different times in relation to other science fiction works, such as Asimov’s Foundation series, in regards to imperial decay and decline, postcolonial fiction, and the tendency to go to the historical past to mine motifs to be projected into the far future.

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  • Melançon, Louis. “Shifting Sand, Shifting Balance.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 27–35. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Carl von Clausewitz’s writings on war are applied to actions in Dune such that the “trinity” of elements he considers—the population, the government, and the military capability of the force—are combined in such a way as to minimize unforeseen consequences. Melançon applies these categories to Paul’s experience in gaining power over the Fremen and, though them, the empire, pointing out that the unintended consequences include the feared jihad.

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  • Minowitz, Peter. “Prince versus Prophet: Machiavellianism in Frank Herbert’s Dune Epic.” In Political Science Fiction. Edited by Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, 124–147. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

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    Minowitz characterizes the Harkonnens as ruthless in a Machiavellian sense, critiquing that family for wasteful practices that do not advance their agenda. He then turns to the Atreides family, seeing them as nearly as ruthlessly Machiavellian as their archrivals, the Harkonnens, quoting extensively from both Dune and The Prince.

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  • Reynolds, John C. “Teaching Socialization through Science Fiction.” The Clearing House 56.9 (May 1983): 404–407.

    DOI: 10.1080/00098655.1983.10113820Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reynolds groups Dune with Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz and Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness as good resources for teaching about social organization, relations between culture and climate, ecological themes, government, tribalism, and extreme socialization conditions. There is a good list of sources for the use of science fiction in teaching social problems in the classroom, but very little analysis of Dune itself.

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Postcolonialism

Gaylard 2008 strikes right at the core of the colonialist inheritance Herbert got from Lawrence of Arabia, one of his major sources, and Gaylard cites Edward Said in this regard. Higgins 2013 brings Herbert, Heinlein, and Clarke together in relation to their works that appeared as Algeria was gaining its independence and other countries were being decolonized. Neely’s anthropological study, Neely 2009, pinpoints various traditional cultures’ attempts to retain their independence from Western colonizers.

  • Gaylard, Gerard. “Postcolonialism and the Transhistorical in Dune.” Foundation 37.104 (2008): 88–101.

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    Gaylard quotes Edward Said’s critique of T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom to apply that critique to Herbert’s depiction of Paul Atreides Muad’Dib in Dune as an example of Western Orientalism, but he continues to point out that Herbert’s integration of a self-awareness on Paul’s part about the dangers and negative side of his “success” have set in motion the very processes that he has been trying to avert. Comprehensive bibliography.

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  • Higgins, David M. “Psychic Decolonization in 1960s Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 40.2 (July 2013): 228–245.

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    Dune is compared to Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in that all three echo the decolonization occurring in the 1960s, compensating for that with a conquest of inner space. Paul is a First World “Lawrence of Arabia” who “goes native” with Third World Fremen through self-mastery, reversing the poles of Emperor and subject planet.

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  • Neely, Sharlotte. “The Anthropology of Dune.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 83–88. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Neely sees Herbert as influenced by anthropology in creating his worlds and peoples. She focuses on Fremen society’s adaptation to Dune’s environment, and the culture shock experienced by the Atreides, in their encounters with the Fremen. She likens Muslims to the Fremen concerning the emergence of a charismatic leader to counter the threat posed by a more highly developed culture, and the Cherokee to the Fremen as threatened cultures developing survival strategies.

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Prediction

Csori 2009 and Hart 2009 are both in Grazier 2009a (cited under Anthologies of Essays), a book on the actual science behind Dune—or not—and both bring up aspects of psychic experience that are presented uncritically in the novel itself. Csori considers “prophecy” or “prediction” in relation to recent scientific concepts, and Hart assesses the workings of the box of pain in relation to similar models. Senior 2007 ties statements made by Herbert in the 1965 novel with events in the real world forty-two years later and finds the author to have been remarkably prescient.

  • Csori, Csilla. “Prescience and Prophecy.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 111–126. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    In an extended summary of probability, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and meteorology, Csori applies this overview to Paul Muad’Dib in Dune and Dune Messiah, assessing the trap that total prediction locks the prescient one into a fatalistic life path. There are no references.

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  • Hart, Carol. “The Black Hole of Pain.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 143–150. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Hart analyzes the neurological and psychological aspects of the experience of pain, and in a close reading of Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam’s administration of the Gom Jabbar and the box of pain to test Paul’s “humanity,” she suggests that much of the pain Paul feels results from hypnotic suggestion on the Reverend Mother’s part.

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  • Senior, William A. “Frank Herbert’s Prescience: Dune and the Modern World.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 17.4 (2007): 317–320.

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    Written during the second Iraq war, this article summarizes ways that history in the forty years following the publication of Dune, including the increased global dependence upon oil, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and the increased prominence of OPEC at that time, all pointed to Frank Herbert’s prescience in the first three Dune books.

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Religion and Supernatural

Anderson 1981 devotes eighty pages to Dune from a Christian perspective, and has an excellent bibliography. Herman 2018 focuses on Black Theology and uses it to compare Paul and Kynes. Howard 2012 applies postcolonial theory to the Dune series at large, while List 2009 focuses on the evocation of a specific mindset of mainstream Protestantism of the 1960s. Riggs 1988 applies two categories of the New Age philosophy to the societies of Dune and Asimov’s Foundation in broad strokes, and Scigaj 1983 applies the contrasting themes of Calvinist Predestination and yogic prana in his analysis, while Singh 2012 uses reader-response methodologies in relation to messianism and martyrology.

  • Anderson, Catherine. “A New Mythology: The Dune Trilogy.” In Christian Concepts and Doctrine in Selected Works of Science Fiction. By Catherine Anderson, 71–154. Denver, CO: University of Denver, 1981.

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    Anderson says the Dune trilogy critiques Christianity and other major religions, like Islam, and implicitly suggests that there is no real god except for a euhemeristic view of divinity; larger-than-life human beings become gods only after their death, and in retrospect, inflected by a human need for the transcendent combined with the human tendency to mythologize.

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  • Herman, Peter. “The Blackness of Liet-Kynes: Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune through James Cone.” Religions 9.9 (2018): 281.

    DOI: 10.3390/rel9090281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Herman applies the Black Theology of James Cone to the messianic qualities of Paul Muad’Dib and Liet-Kynes, concluding that Paul is an “anti-messiah” because he has not “died to whiteness,” while Liet-Kynes is the true Christ figure of the novel, drawing parallels between Kynes’s death and the crucifixion in the Gospel of Matthew. The emphasis is on the theology rather than Dune.

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  • Howard, Kenton Taylor. “Religious Violence in Frank Herbert’s Dune Series.” MA diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2012.

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    Howard applies postcolonial theory to Dune and Dune Messiah, touching on God Emperor of Dune in his conclusion. Paralleling the fiction with real-world relations between colonialist Western powers and formerly colonized peoples, Howard points to the religion “planted” by the Missionaria Protectiva on Arrakis that will place the son of Duke Leto as ruler and savior of the “Orientalized” Fremen natives.

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  • List, Julia. “‘Call me a Protestant’: Liberal Christianity, Individualism, and the Messiah in Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune, and Lord of Light.” Science Fiction Studies 36.1 (March 2009): 21–47.

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    List includes Dune with Heinlein’s and Zelazny’s major 1960s novels as representative of a Mainline Protestant philosophical framework that is agnostic, relativistic, and tolerant. Religious practices are shown in a positive light only if they have a useful social function. Jessica’s manipulation of Bene Gesserit–planted prophecies cynically enlists religious fervor.

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  • Riggs, Don. “Future and ‘Progress’ in Foundation and Dune.” In Spectrum of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Sixth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, Beaumont, TX, 1985. Edited by Donald Palumbo, 113–117. New York: Greenwood, 1988.

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    Herbert’s Dune and Asimov’s Foundation are shown to exhibit some characteristics of the astrological Neptune and Uranus, respectively, or mystical immersion in realms beyond individual consciousness in the first case, and lightning-fast computer-like calculation in the second.

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  • Scigaj, Leonard M. “Prana and the Presbyterian Fixation: Ecology and Technology in Frank Herbert’s Dune Tetralogy.” Extrapolation 24.4 (1983): 340–355.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1983.24.4.340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article focuses on Dune, Paul, and predestination in the prophecies that Paul will be Kwisatz Haderach and Mahdi. Despite his attempt to prevent the Jihad, accepting the mantle of Mahdi renders it inevitable. Scigaj balances this fatalism with the prana that he finds in Leto II. Scigaj sees predestination in Asimov’s confidence that problems can be resolved by technology.

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  • Singh, Sanjana. “Messiahs and Martyrs: Religion in Selected Novels of Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles.” Masters thesis in English, University of South Africa, 2012.

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    Singh focuses on the first four books of the Dune series in relation to messianic and martyrological aspects of Paul and Leto II. She points to Herbert’s distrust of messiahs and martyrs, despite admitting that religion meets a real human need. Singh applies reader-response theory to the reader’s perception of the fictional world. Extensive bibliography.

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Right Way of Living

Seven of these articles are from Nicholas 2011a (cited under Anthologies of Essays) and use aspects of the novel to prompt philosophical questions. Two of the essays from the anthology, Jackson 2011 and Pearson 2011, focus on Nietzsche and Dune. Prieto-Pablos 1991 sets Paul in the context of post–World War II American science fiction. Ciochetti 2011 sets up the Harkonnens and the Fremen as dialectical opposites, with the Atreides in the middle, as regards profligate consumption versus self-control. Gates-Scoville 2011 focuses on the apparent conflict between free will and prescience in Paul’s coming to awareness and its aftermath in Dune Messiah. Littmann 2011 surveys various groups of characters in the “Duniverse” as regards the Platonic and Aristotelian “good life.” Lund 2011 explores the Butlerian Jihad, the reaction against a machine-dominated humanity, as being the fundamental problem of Dune and its sequels. Nicholas 2011b also considers the implications of the reaction against machines in terms of humanity’s tendency to become automatized, which is expressed in the test with the Gom Jabbar as living with an animal mentality.

  • Ciochetti, Christopher. “Power Mongers and Worm Riders.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 91–101. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    The Harkonnens are pitted against the Fremen as dialectical opposites: the first want power, but are empty, despite the Baron’s grossly corpulent body; the second are not possessed by their possessions, being minimalist in their living, but are bound by self-imposed restrictions and rituals. The Atreides are the mean, though not all get the balance right. These three points on the continuum are seen as degrees of the “right” way of living.

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  • Gates-Scoville, Sam. “Son of the Curse of the Golden Path.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 207–217. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Gates-Scoville assesses the tension between oracular knowledge of the future and free will in Paul’s increasing susceptibility to precognitive visions as he ingests more of the spice. He concludes that only in the blind spots, when Paul is ignorant, does he have free will. Most of the essay looks forward to Leto II’s similar prophetic powers and the way that he resolves this issue through the Golden Path.

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  • Jackson, Roy. “Paul Atreides the Nietzschean Hero.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 177–187. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Jackson refers to several of Nietzsche’s works to show how Paul Muad’Dib is equivalent to or a version of Nietzsche’s Superman, and also “human, all too human.” The element of the sardonic is a necessary accompaniment to the superiority of the Mahdi, as he combines the collective striving of the Fremen with an awareness of his own imperfection, and his distance from the Hero that he represents for many.

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  • Littmann, Greg. “Just What Do You Do with the Entire Human Race, Anyway?” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 103–119. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Littmann imaginatively interrogates the Dune Chronicles’ fictional characters through Socrates and Aristotle to determine what the “good life” is, and whether any of the characters achieve it. He considers several major characters, but concludes that, according to Aristotle, the Mentats are living the best life, as their lives are dedicated to thought. This conclusion may be tongue-in-cheek.

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  • Lund, Kristian. “Wiping Finite Answers from an Infinite Universe.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 149–160. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Lund derives the name of the Butlerian Jihad from the philosopher Samuel Butler and his Erewhon, in which machines have been dismantled, since they had followed Darwinian evolutionary principles to develop into autonomous beings. Lund sees the Dune books as favoring dynamic relations with the universe. The influence of Heidegger is emphasized; the protagonist of Herbert’s novel The Santaroga Barrier is named Dasein, Heidegger’s term for “becoming.”

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  • Nicholas, Jeffery. “Facing the Gom Jabbar Test.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 3–12. Chicago: Open Court, 2011b.

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    Nicholas applies the Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam’s statements to himself, pointing out that we have surrendered many of our functions to machines like those eliminated by the Butlerian Jihad, and that many of us are “animals,” as we don’t prevent a danger to the survival of our species. Aristotle is cited that humans are well suited to practice politics in the original sense: be actively engaged in running the state.

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  • Pearson, Brook W. R. “Friedrich Nietzsche Goes to Space.” In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat. Edited by Jeffery Nicholas, 189–205. Chicago: Open Court, 2011.

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    Pearson sees Paul in Dune as a precursor to the Übermensch and argues that Leto II is the true “Overman” that Paul foreshadows. Herbert is seen to be continuing Nietzsche’s philosophical work, not fully developing until God Emperor of Dune. This perspective sheds light on aspects of Dune itself; Paul is not the Kwisatz Haderach, but Nietzsche’s human on the tightrope over the abyss, linking the animal with the Übermensch.

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  • Prieto-Pablos, Juan A. “The Ambivalent Hero of Contemporary Fantasy and Science Fiction.” Extrapolation 32.1 (1991): 64–80.

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    Prieto-Pablos sees American science fiction after World War II as either optimistic, since we won, or pessimistic, because of the threat of the bomb. Its heroes have been either galactic saviors or tragic heroes, respectively. A third type of hero is exemplified by Paul, as he has both supernatural powers and overthrows the old order, yet cannot prevent the Jihad.

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Space and Appropriate Technology

As all four of these articles are from Grazier 2009a (cited under Anthologies of Essays), one of them by Grazier himself (Grazier 2009b). Grazier 2009b uses current astronomical knowledge to assess whether the stars in Herbert’s universe can be identified in relationship to our astronomy. Seger and Grazier 2009 gathers the various uses of the force at play in the shields, used by the Atreides, Harkonnens, and other Imperial nobility, as well as the suspensors used by the Baron Harkonnen and others, to counter gravity. They all address the given facts of the Duniverse against the conventionally accepted facts of “real science.” Smith 2009a and Smith 2009b contrast the author’s initial enthusiasm for the novel with the real-life experience he has had working for NASA.

  • Grazier, Kevin. “The Real Stars of Dune.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 89–109. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009b.

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    After a brief overview of astronomers’ ranking of stars by size, temperature, and color, Grazier compares the descriptions of various planets in Dune, its sequels and prequels, assessing how their locations—found mainly in the Appendix to Dune—would allow life to exist there and whether their age, atmosphere, and chemical composition fit Herbert’s description of their qualities. Some of the planets’ qualities match the imagined qualities, and some do not.

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  • Seger, Gus, and Kevin R. Grazier. “Suspensor of Disbelief.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 207–216. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009.

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    Seger summarizes Newtonian gravity modified by Einstein’s Relativity, citing the Casimir force to support the possibility of the Holtzman field. That accounts, in Dune, for energies that repel objects: suspensor suits and shields to repel bullets and knives. The infrastructure needed to generate such a field seems too large to be practical with today’s technology. There are a few sources on the scientific aspects of the chapter.

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  • Smith, John C. “Navigators and the Spacing Guild.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 152–166. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009a.

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    Smith, an engineer in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has been a navigator for many unmanned interplanetary satellites. From this background, he describes the difficulties in navigating ships for great distances in interplanetary and interstellar space concerning prediction of various objects’ trajectories, as well as the anomalies that occur from mysterious or unknown forces. He emphasizes the vast difference between Guild Navigators and NASA navigators.

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  • Smith, John C. “Stillsuit.” In The Science of Dune: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Edited by Kevin R. Grazier, 127–141. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009b.

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    Smith analyzes the human body’s need for homeostasis in water and temperature, also the potential of sweat, urine, and feces to resupply the body’s water lost in a very hot and arid environment; refers to scuba diving, space exploration, and refrigeration to parallel the technical description Kynes gives concerning stillsuits; and concludes that we do not yet have the technology to engineer a stillsuit as described in Dune.

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