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Title: Augmented intimacies : posthuman love stories in contemporary science fiction
Author: Christmas, Amy Jane
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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Science fiction in the developed world has for centuries provided a fertile space for explorations of human and cultural phenomena, on the one hand underpinning philosophical conceptions of humans and human nature, and on the other acting as a fictive mirror in which the aspects and impacts of our technoscientific cultures are reflected. Between nature and culture stands the figure of the posthuman, whose ancestry can be traced as far back as the Talmudic golems, but whose presence is most keenly felt in the genre since the mid-twentieth century, where the science has caught up with the fiction. Resurfacing in post-industrial, secular society, alongside technologies newly able to render it into being, the posthuman reminds us of our position in relation to evolutionary laws, inviting speculation upon its future, and thus, by default, upon our own. In 2002, Francis Fukuyama used two seminal works of science fiction – Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – to trace ‘a tale of two dystopias’, or how two fields of technoscience are currently pushing us into a posthuman stage of history. Biotechnology and communications are, as Donna Haraway has put it, ‘the crucial tools recrafting our bodies’ – moreover, they provide the discursive spaces within which we now so consciously write and rewrite our presents, pasts and futures. This thesis follows the dovetailing trajectories of Fukuyama’s ‘two futures’ hypothesis by presenting, in two sections, a range of posthuman figures in contemporary science fiction novels, short stories, comics and films. Beginning with Philip K. Dick’s genre-defining Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and ending just over four decades later with Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s milestone Internet documentary Catfish (2010), the four textual analysis chapters delineate an evolution of the posthuman in fiction (and reality) from cyborg to cyberpunk, showing how the ground is quickly closed up between the human and the posthuman. Much excellent scholarship, following Haraway’s ground-breaking “Manifesto for Cyborgs” (1985), has been produced on the cyborgian/posthuman figure in science fiction and practice alike; the posthuman as the ultimate Other for our technoscientific world. This thesis takes a new approach in refocusing upon the posthuman in love, responding to the growing insistency in science fiction texts to foreground romantic relationships between posthumans, between humans and posthumans, and between humans enframed by the technoscientific. The close readings of these eleven primary sources are underpinned by four chapters devoted to constructing a philosophical framework which marries the cyborg theory of Haraway and the virtual posthumanism of N. Katherine Hayles with the history of the philosophy of love in the continental tradition, specifically the late-twentieth and early twenty-first-century writings of Alain Badiou. Working from Badiou’s central tenets of love – difference, disjunction, and the encounter – and analysing the move to posthuman selfhood alongside the seemingly anachronistic pursuit of love in late modernity, this thesis seeks to explore and explain the presence and meaning of love in high-tech society. If the posthuman is an emergent figure portending the end of history, as many postmodern thinkers have argued, then how can we understand its relationship to the love paradigm, which turns on the perpetuation of a conception of metanarrative that, in current modes of criticism, has fallen out of fashion?
Supervisor: Peters, Gary ; King, Leisl Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available