This thesis is an investigation of a possible new categorization under the speculative fiction umbrella—a genre called palimpsestic novels. Palimpsestic novels are characterized by layers of time in the past, the present, and sometimes the future. In a fantastical setting, often with nonscientific time travel, the layers illuminate and provide contemporary significance to eras of history that have either become blurred or forgotten through time. The formation of a palimpsestic genre will provide an appropriate categorization for some speculative fiction novels that currently are nebulous mixtures of several genres, have no genre classification at all, or would better fit in a palimpsestic category. This thesis investigates and analyzes two speculative fiction novels—Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz—that both prove to have obvious palimpsestic characteristics and would fit nicely into a palimpsestic genre under the speculative fiction umbrella. The palimpsestic nature of both of these novels also makes them compelling social commentaries that illuminate history’s significance in the present as well as the future. Since the term palimpsestic invites a metaphorical perspective, the thesis also examines the Archimedes Palimpsest and palimpsests from a variety of disciplines as mimetic symbols of layering.


John Banschbach

Committee Member

Anne O'Meara

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

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