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Practising the Posthumanities: evolutionary animals, machines and the posthuman in the fiction of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut

Moore, Erica Brown 2011. Practising the Posthumanities: evolutionary animals, machines and the posthuman in the fiction of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis demonstrates how selected texts by J.G. Ballard—Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974) and High‐Rise 1975)—and Kurt Vonnegut—Player Piano (1952), Slaughterhouse‐Five(1969) and Galápagos (1985)—can be considered in terms of theoretical stances derived from posthumanism. By analysing representations of the ‘human’ in relation to both the ‘machine’ and the ‘evolutionary human animal’, this thesis illustrates the emergence of the posthuman subject. In addition, by recognising the intersection between posthumanism and evolutionary theory, a wider project of this thesis involves demonstrating how the use of various theoretical approaches, from the ‘humanities’ and the ‘sciences’, contributes to the formation of a ‘posthumanities’ approach to literature. J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut consistently present fictional scenarios in which the lines between ‘human’, ‘machine’ and ‘evolutionary animal’ are disrupted and blurred. Depictions assume various triangulations and configurations: from the protagonist Ballard’s auto‐eroticism, to the characters of High‐Rise conflating boundaries between the ‘human’ and the evolutionary animal that is conveyed as a constituent of human identity, as well as between the machinic environment and the human inhabitant. Further,comparable configurations characterise Vonnegut’s texts: Player Piano’s Paul Proteus’ war against the machine is superimposed by human affiliation with the machine, and the castaway characters of Galápagos are stranded by evolutionary forces that displace human authority and control to the uttermost limit. Each of these instances contributes to the effective intervention of posthumanist thinking when reading the texts. In addition, the utilisation of evolutionary concepts derived from contemporaneous publications circulating in the cultural and scientific sphere highlights the usefulness of acknowledging sources from beyond the remit of traditional literary studies’ methodologies when reading texts. The triangulation between literature, posthumanism and evolutionary theory results in a reconfigured methodological approach to fictional texts: the posthumanities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 22:40

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