First Study of Women in the Dune Series in New Book by Palgrave

Industry: Books

New book by Palgrave, Women’s Agency in the Dune Universe, offers first major study of female characters and feminist themes in bestselling Dune science fiction series.

Auckland, NZ (PRUnderground) December 20th, 2021

Kara Kennedy, PhD (aka Dune Scholar) announces the release of her book Women’s Agency in the Dune Universe: Tracing Women’s Liberation through Science Fiction, a new scholarly study published by Palgrave. The book explores how female characters in the Dune series (1965-1985) have the kind of control over their bodies that 20th-century feminists fought for.

“Over five decades after Frank Herbert’s Dune was published, it’s past time to look more closely at the women of the Bene Gesserit and their role in this epic science fiction saga,” said Kennedy. “They are extraordinarily skilled and influential characters but have been overlooked or dismissed in the scholarship. This is my opportunity to provide more insight into these characters and how similar their concerns were to real-world issues in the women’s liberation movement, including bodily autonomy and tensions between the individual and the collective.”

The book determines whether the representation of women in the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood can be considered feminist. It looks at several ways women secure control and influence, including reproduction and motherhood, education and memory, and sexuality. Each chapter examines one of these topics from a historical and feminist perspective before diving into a close reading of the Bene Gesserit. The popular character Lady Jessica features as a frequent example due to her prominent role in the series.

In addition, the book makes comparisons between the Bene Gesserit and other characters including the Mentats, Bene Tleilaxu, and Honored Matres. And it uses the perspective of notable contemporary feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Adrienne Rich. Kennedy also places the Dune series within the larger science fiction genre through brief comparisons with feminist science fiction works by writers such as Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Women’s Agency in the Dune Universe: Tracing Women’s Liberation through Science Fiction is available in hardcover. For more information, visit

About Kara Kennedy

Kara Kennedy, PhD, is a researcher, writer, and educator in the areas of science fiction, digital literacy, and writing. She has lectured and published on various aspects of Dune, including world-building, names, social sciences, and spice. She is currently writing another book on Dune and posts analyses for a mainstream audience on her blog at

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