Conserving the balance: Frank Herbert's "Dune" as propaganda

Barbara Ann Silliman, University of Rhode Island


Conserving the Balance: Frank Herbert's DUNE as Propaganda examines Herbert's masterpiece work of science fiction literature as a form of propaganda. It evaluates the source of the propaganda, the avenues of dissemination of the propagandistic elements, and the successes and failures of the attempts at propagandizing. The first chapter is devoted to a short history of American twentieth century science fiction with a longer section devoted to the various literary criticisms of the genre. The criticisms cover a period from the early 1950s until the early 1990s and range from a general view of the genre and its legitimacy as literature to specific criticisms, such as American heroic, mythic, and feminist. A beginning review of propaganda criticism is made as well. The second chapter evaluates the issues and themes of Dune using several accepted critical analyses. These include historical, heroic, epic, psychological, gender (masculist and feminist), religious, and ecological critical approaches. The third chapter focuses on the propaganda issues in Dune. First, a brief survey is made of Herbert's views on science fiction and its writing, followed by important biographical circumstances which influenced the writing of the novel. A more complete review of the nature of propaganda in literature and the formulation of propaganda in Dune is made evaluating the setting, cultural analogies, ecological constraints, evolution of the hero, religion as a sociopolitical and cultural force, the place of women and drugs in the culture of Dune, and the deviants and the natural order of things in the ecology of Dune. The fourth chapter assesses Herbert's achievement in Dune, evaluating the success and failure of the propaganda messages being received by the target-reader. The film version is evaluated along with book and film reviews to finally measure the success and failure of Herbert's propagandist efforts.

Subject Area

American literature|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Barbara Ann Silliman, "Conserving the balance: Frank Herbert's "Dune" as propaganda" (1996). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9702075.