by Anya Heise-von der Lippe, editor of Posthuman Gothic
The Posthuman Gothic is concerned with humanity’s widespread sense of unease concerning our biomedical and technological involvements and their capacity to change our perceptions of what it means to be human. It revolves around our fear of becoming ‘other’, of losing ourselves in a multitude of corporeal as well as discursive possibilities. Pop-cultural representations of the horror of cyborgs like the Borg on Star Trek, the virally transformed vampire creatures of I am Legend, or the hybrid monsters of the Alien-franchise may seem superficial and predominantly designed to shock. These are, however, only the most blatant examples of a much more pervasive category crisis, which ultimately threatens humanity’s understanding of what it means to be human. Posthuman theory (by Cary Wolfe, Rosi Braidotti and Stefan Herbrechter, for instance) reminds us that humanity’s master narratives about the human’s unique subject position, prevalent since the Enlightenment, are no longer tenable and, even more importantly, we may never actually have been wholly ‘human’ in the first place – or at least not regarded as such at all times.
The Posthuman margins, towards which we are now driven by our cultural and scientific developments, are, like medieval maps, populated by scary, hybrid creatures, threatening to reveal uncomfortable truths about humanity’s tendencies to exclude these ‘others’ in an attempt to establish coherent identity narratives about itself. These are Gothic territories, as the Gothic’s ‘negative aesthetic’ has always been more interested in the margins, the undersides and the outsides of normative culture. Posthuman Gothic texts not only swarm with monstrous ‘others’ – cyborgs, machine creatures, bioengineered transhumans and monstrous incarnations of the posthuman – but offer also ways of exploring and mapping these territories, of critically framing encounters between the human and its others beyond a simple, normative re-instatement of boundaries.
The thirteen chapters of Posthuman Gothic present a structured, dialogic contribution to this discussion. They focus on viral vampires, medicated zombies, bioengineered posthumans, cyborgs and various other hybrids as well as human experiences of the Posthuman, reading them alongside a number of theoretical approaches – from critical posthumanism to accelerationism, from feminist theory via panopticism to theories of hospitality.
Anya Heise-von der Lippe is Assistant Lecturer with the Chair of Anglophone Literatures at the Universität Tübingen.
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