Gertrude Bell with King Faisal and company at picnic in 1922

Gertrude Bell and Jessica of Dune: Influencers in the Halls of Power

The parallels between the life of Gertrude Bell, British archaeologist and writer, and the character Lady Jessica in Frank Herbert’s Dune make for an interesting study of how women can successfully carry themselves in unfamiliar territory and exert influence. Although T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935) is more well-known, in no small part due to the popular movie based on his time in the Middle East (Lawrence of Arabia (1962)), Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926) was a significant Western figure in the Middle East in the 20th century and arguably more extraordinary in terms of her influence. Known as a queen or daughter of

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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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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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mouth of female statue

The Bene Gesserit’s Vocal Analysis Skills in the Voice and Truthsaying

The Bene Gesserit can control other people just by using their voice in Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965). They can also determine whether someone is telling the truth. These techniques are based on humans’ ability to modify their language and tone when they communicate. This article explores the Bene Gesserit’s skills in the Voice and Truthsaying as the fifth in a multi-part series on their abilities. (See part 1, real-world influences; part 2, nerve and muscle control; part 3, schooling in espionage and politics; and part 4, perception and memory.) The Voice is one of the few skills

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