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Title: The poetics of humanity in the novels of Michel Houellebecq
Author: Grass, D. B.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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My research relates to the works of Michel Houellebecq and his re-formulation of the contemporary scientific episteme within the aesthetic and subjective domain of the novel. His artistic influences, which encompass early German Romanticism, Balzac, Auguste Comte and the science-fiction writings of HP Lovecraft, all attest to a philosophical shift in the place given to the human body within the series of industrial and scientific revolutions that took place since the Enlightenment. By including contemporary scientific discourses on tourism, sexuality, prostitution and advertising in his novels and poems, Houellebecq fictionalises the position of the subject within the boundaries of modern knowledge. His poetry acts as a critique of scientific prose on human and animals in the context of global-market economics, which tends to frame and define the subject as a transparent and complete object of study and therefore economic transaction. If human beings are transparent to modern forms of knowing, Houellebecq seems to ask, can humans still speak as subjects? In light of this question, the “I” of the modern poet acts as a form of sceptical resistance to the rationalisation of humans as living beings and consumers. The fiction of human cloning in Houellebecq’s novel La Possibilité d’une île, on the other hand, fictionalises the outcome of the rationalisation of human interaction through the discourse of sexuality. I compare this novel with J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace in which the figure of the dog becomes a symbol of humanity. In La Possibilité d’une île, the dog Fox symbolises human domestication through cloning and the institutionalisation of the human body through technological reproduction. This is explained in the thesis in the light of Foucault’s notion of biopower. Through his critique of the dominating discourse of sexuality in La Possibilité d’une île and his former novels, Houellebecq suggests that state control over biological matter in the name of sexuality and knowledge threatens in fact to transform subjects into raw material for exploitation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available