Dune Talk podcast video title card

Podcast Interview on the Bene Gesserit of Dune

I’ve been researching and writing about the women of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood of Frank Herbert’s Dune for a while, but haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it verbally much outside of conferences. So I was appreciative of Dune Talk – A Dune News Net Show for the chance to be interviewed on their podcast and talk about my favorite topic and aspects of analysis from my forthcoming book on Dune, based on my PhD research. We also talked about the new Dune film and our thoughts on how it will handle the characterization of key women in its adaptation. I hope people

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Nuns with long white veils walking away

Similar Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Bene Gesserit

Catholic nuns and the Bene Gesserit in Dune have much in common: from titles and clothing to discipline and influence – these are women with a mission. As sisters clothed in black, they are committed followers of their order who make a difference in their communities. Yet there is also a key difference in that the fictional Bene Gesserit do not answer to a male authority figure. This likely reflects author Frank Herbert’s interest in providing women with more agency than they had in the confines of real-world religions. According to his son Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert was responding in

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Jesuit mission building in Argentina

Female Jesuits: The Catholic Origins of the Bene Gesserit

Jesuit and Gesserit: it’s not a coincidence they sound alike. The real-life Jesuits in Roman Catholicism and the Bene Gesserit characters in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune have many parallels, including their commitment to service, missionary programs, education system, and political influence. This article explores some of the key similarities between the two and shows ways the Jesuit order can be viewed as a model for the fictional Sisterhood. Herbert’s Personal Experience It makes sense that the all-female Bene Gesserit order would have a basis in Catholicism, since Herbert had strong Catholic influences in his life. According to Timothy O’Reilly’s study

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Eugenics and the Breeding Program in Dune

The influence of eugenics on Frank Herbert’s Dune emerges most clearly in the Bene Gesserit’s philosophy and breeding program, but is also visible in Paul Atreides’ concern with his terrible purpose. Ideas in the book about competition and survival, human vs. animal, and stagnation and the gene pool link with ideas from the eugenics movement about how humanity might improve itself. Overview of Eugenics Eugenics is a loaded term with associations to some of the darkest parts of 20th-century history. Some would like to believe that it faded away after WWII. But this is a myth that distorts the way

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Wonder Woman and Bene Gesserit illustration

Bene Gesserit: The Wonder Woman of Dune?

Wonder Woman wields her Lasso of Truth, using it to make others tell the truth or obey her, while the Bene Gesserit in Dune engage their abilities in the Voice and Truthsaying, using them to command others and tell whether they’re lying. Both come from all-women communities and hope to save and/or improve humanity through their extraordinary skills as strong and capable women. Might Frank Herbert have modeled the Bene Gesserit in part on William Moulton Marston’s popular comic book superhero? A possible connection between Wonder Woman and the Bene Gesserit first arose during my research for my article on their

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Social Sciences and World-Building in Dune

How did Frank Herbert use his research into social sciences such as history, psychology, and linguistics to develop the world of Dune? Although Dune has been heralded as a world-building masterpiece, there has been little exploration of how he crafted the novel in a way that downplays technology and emphasizes the human mind and body. What follows is a summary of the key points in my recently published academic article on this topic. It discusses how the Spacing Guild, Mentats, and Bene Gesserit are shown as groups that seem necessary in the wake of the Butlerian Jihad and banning of

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