ENGL 785.1 Proseminar in Lit. after 1870: “Posthumanism”
Prof. Matthew Taylor
TTh 12:30-1:45

Course Description
Although the posthuman frequently is associated with current or near-future
developments in cybernetics and immersive virtual realities, the idea that
we might benefit from expanding the boundaries of our bodies (and thus our
selves) is both centuries-old and inclusive of a range of traditionally
technophobic discourses, from aesthetic romanticism and transcendentalist
metaphysics to the deep ecology movement and critical animal studies. With
this broad definition in mind, our course will survey major statements in
“posthumanist” literature, painting, film, web media, and philosophy from
the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries; address the differences
and similarities between popular and critical posthumanisms; reflect upon
posthumanism’s political and ethical implications; and ask what futures, if
any, the posthuman might have.

We will consider the following: short fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Franz
Kafka; H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau; William Gibson’s seminal
cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer; Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2, a meditation on
the metaphysics of artificial intelligence; STELARC’s transhumanist
website; Peter Høeg’s recent The Woman and the Ape; select paintings by
Francis Bacon; Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg’s A.I.; and Werner
Herzog’s Grizzly Man. Likely theorists/philosophers to be included: Donna
Haraway, Giorgio Agamben, Bruno Latour, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze and
Felix Guattari, Cary Wolfe, and N. Katherine Hayles.

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