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Profs & Pints Northern Virginia: Good, Evil and "Dune"

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Sunday, June 9 2024 3:00 PM 5:30 PM EDT

Profs and Pints Northern Virginia presents: “Good, Evil, and Dune,” an exploration of the hit sci-fi franchise as epic without a hero, with Peter Herman, former lecturer of theology and religious studies at Marymount University and scholar of religious and social themes in science fiction and fantasy.

The two-part Dune film epic has grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide. At a glance, both it and the 1965 novel that it is based upon might seem like just another space opera about a hero who overthrows a repressive evil—something we’ve seen before with the Star Wars franchise and other popular works.

Beneath the surface of Dune, however, lies something a lot more complicated. Dune, it turns out, doesn’t really have a hero. Instead, it raises provocative questions about good, evil, and salvation.

Get a lot more out of Dune by hearing it discussed by Peter Herman, a theologian who has published extensively on religious themes in science fiction. He’ll look at the story of Dune through the theories of good and evil developed by James Cone in Black liberation theology and Delores Williams in womanist thought, unpacking what it means to be a savior, whether suffering is possibly redemptive, and the critical difference between inverting and subverting power structures.

The central character of Dune, Paul Atreides, is often read as a messianic figure. Dr. Herman will argue, however, that Atreides is nothing of the sort. He's not even an anti-hero.

Instead Atreides is a very particular, and very seductive, kind of villain. He is ultimately not a subverter of empire but another in a long line of emperors. The author of Dune, Frank Herbert, was explicit about this in his time. Film director Denis Villeneuve’s two-part cinematic adaptation serves to reinforce this decision, making choices in characterization that underscore Herbert’s version of Atreides as someone whom you would not want as a revolutionary leader.

Yet many still come away from Dune thinking it’s a liberation-and-salvation epic. We’ll look for the source of this disconnect. You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions about and discuss Dune’s deeper meaning. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)

Image: Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert, where Dune was filmed. (Photo from Pexels.)