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A Complex World

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Abstract

This concluding chapter provides an overview of other interesting avenues of interpretation of Dune, some of which have not yet been well-explored in the scholarship. Perspectives that have received some attention include those from philosophy, classical studies, and comparative literature, while emerging areas of study include world-building, linguistics, translation studies, postcolonialism, and posthumanism. The chapter concludes by discussing Dune’s ambiguity and openness to multiple interpretations, which make it ripe for new critical perspectives and debates.

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The characterization of spice in Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune plays a significant role in world-building and focusing readers' attention on natural enhancements to the human mind. Herbert uses historical and social contexts relevant to real-world spices to create layers of meaning by tapping into emerging trends in ecology, psychology, and politics. These include the historic spice trade, drugs in the countercultural movement, the disciplines of ecology and psychology, and foreign interference in the Middle East. Such linkages help position spice as a valuable commodity as well as a psychoactive substance that various characters must consume to accomplish extraordinary feats. In the world of Dune, everything is dependent on one substance, and although spice may give advantages, it also takes its toll. The consequences of spice consumption on an individual level then mirror the larger ecological disruptions in the novel in the realms of politics and the environment. In this way, spice represents a key feature of world-building that assists in tying the threads of the novel together and driving through to readers the ecological message about the interconnectedness of life.
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Looking at Dune as one of the bridges between the ‘hard’ science fiction of the 1950s and the ‘soft’ science fiction of the New Wave, it is significant that author Frank Herbert chooses to create a world where technological prowess is not the focus, where the culture is still haunted by the Butlerian Jihad, when machines were used to enslave humankind. This historical context justifies an attitude of suspicion and fear toward technology, which then enables Herbert to concentrate on making a universe centered on the development of the human mind and body. In the Imperium, then, new orders of enhanced humans seem necessary and natural, including the Mentats, with their logical, computer-like functions; and the Spacing Guild, with its enhanced Navigators who alone can guide ships traveling through space. Furthermore, having already set up suspicion about the stereotypically male-dominated realm of technology, Herbert is perhaps better positioned to realistically depict the most powerful order in the novel, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, as an all-female one, whose ‘soft’ power over society is significant, from the gom jabbar test to Truthsaying to the Voice. Yet Herbert still places all of these new orders in a familiar feudal governing structure with emperors and family clans to maintain a link with real-world institutions. Ultimately, Herbert relies heavily on the social sciences to create a world focused on the development of the human mind and body rather than technology, and proves that a focus on the human offers a tremendous opportunity for building an interesting and believable universe.
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Names play a significant role in the development of the characters and cultures of the imaginary worlds envisioned by science fiction and fantasy authors. Rather than creating new languages, as J. R. R. Tolkien does in The Lord of the Rings, Frank Herbert accomplishes his world-building in Dune by choosing existing names that evoke a recognizable medieval, feudal setting and depict a desert planet inhabited by a quasi-Arabic and Islamic tribal people. Although names serve to juxtapose the Fremen as an exotic Other with the Western Atreides family, they also gesture towards a possible re-envisioning of this polarized relationship.
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Frank Herbert's influential science fiction novel Dune (1965) is usually understood as a prescient work of environmentalism. Yet it is also concerned with empire, and not merely in an abstract way. Herbert worked in politics with the men who oversaw the United States’ overseas territories, and he took an unusually strong interest in Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest, particularly the Quileute Nation. Conversations with Quileute interlocutors both inspired Dune and help explain Herbert's turn toward environmentalism. This article recovers the neglected imperial context for Herbert's writing, reinterpreting Dune in light of that context.
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Comparison between Lawrence of Arabia and Seven Pillars of Wisdom and Frank Herbert's Dune published on Tor.com (https://www.tor.com/2021/06/02/lawrence-of-arabia-paul-atreides-and-the-roots-of-frank-herberts-dune/)
Chapter
Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune (1965), is special in the science fiction field; the originality of this novel lives not only in its content, but also in its form as the author uses some stylistic effects to make his point, and especially foreign languages. Arabic is greatly represented in the novel and takes on a particular meaning. Dune is a novel in which languages are in contact, and the translation adds another linguistic dimension to the work. Loanwords have two aims in Dune: creating an exotic paradigm inside an unknown alien world while appealing to the reader’s background about those particular languages. However, in a science fiction context the loanwords tend to be more complicated as their meanings do not always refer to their initial and real life meanings, they are fiction words, according to Angenot’s terminology. Frank Herbert uses some foreign terms and changes their meaning according to the context and the color he wants for his fictional world. The French translation of Frank Herbert’s work is thus constrained by the foreign color the author wanted to give his novel and the semantic distortion Herbert gave to the loanwords. A comparative analysis of the loanwords in both the original and French versions of Dune helps to understand how the translator has dealt with the linguistic encounter of the novel and also, in a larger scale, to understand how the particular features of science fiction universe are translated.
Chapter
Frank Herbert’s Dune is frequently viewed as a science-fiction masterpiece.1 It is in some ways a mixture of the mode of the Koran, the rise of a messiah, and the story of Lawrence of Arabia, who made himself one with the Arabs. It grew, Herbert has said, out of the image of a planet covered by desert sand, and from his wish to write an analysis of humanity’s need for a messiah or superhero.2 Its origins were thus both imaginative and intellectual, and in the bonding of the two lies much of its strength. It has been argued that Dune was also written as a reply to Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, out of Herbert’s dislike for impositions of science on history: thus Herbert replaces Seldon’s mathematics with Paul Muad’Dib’s wild unconscious, and order and civilization are put together with anarchy and primitive nature.3 Certainly it can be said that Dune might not have been written had the example of Asimov’s epic not been there.
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