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Religions 2018, 9(9), 281;

The Blackness of Liet-Kynes: Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune Through James Cone

Theology & Religious Studies, Marymount University, Arlington, VA 22207, USA
Received: 1 August 2018 / Revised: 14 September 2018 / Accepted: 17 September 2018 / Published: 18 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
Full-Text   |   PDF [188 KB, uploaded 18 September 2018]


Frank Herbert’s landmark science fiction novel Dune has received numerous sequels, prequels, and film treatments. Detailing the saga of humanity’s far future beyond our present solar system, the work plays successfully with religious, political, and ecological themes. This essay deals with the social/theological implications of two figures within the story-world of Dune: Its protagonist and visible hero, Paul Atreides/Muad’Dib and the lesser figure of the “Imperial Planetologist” Dr. Kynes, also known to the Fremen as “Liet”. By reading these two figures through the theology of James Cone, we discover that the obvious hero is not a messianic figure but a demonic one. Further, it is the lesser character of Liet-Kynes who actually fulfills the messianic role in Cone’s theological system. This essay is preceded by and makes use of Jeremy Ian Kirk’s work with the film Avatar that provides similar analysis. Where Kirk’s principal concern is with the ethical considerations of Avatar, this essay will more closely bear on Cone’s dynamic of redemption and conversion, specifically his notion of dying to white identity to be reborn in blackness. View Full-Text
Keywords: theology; whiteness; black liberation; liberation theology; soteriology; salvation theology; whiteness; black liberation; liberation theology; soteriology; salvation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Herman, P. The Blackness of Liet-Kynes: Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune Through James Cone. Religions 2018, 9, 281.

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