Desire, Identification, and Virtual Embodiment in Feminist Narratives of Cyberspace

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Foster, Thomas. "'The Postproduction of the Human Heart': Desire, Identification, and Virtual Embodiment in Feminist Narratives of Cyberspace." In Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture: pp. [469]-504.

Among the relevant primary works covered or significantly mentioned:

Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall
Edith Forbes's Exit to Reality
Laura J. Mixon's Proxies
Walker Sage's Whiteout
Roger Zelazny's The Dream Master 
Alluded to for contrast: THE MATRIX, THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR.

Includes 30 discursive Notes, taking readers further into the topics covered (pp. 487-502) and an extensive list of Works Cited (pp. 502-04), including Foster's own work on these topics:

• "Meatpuppets or Robopaths?: Cyberpunk and the Question of Embodiment," Genders 18 (Winter 1993): 11-31.
• "'Trapped by the Body?': Telepresence Technologies and Transgendered Performance in Feminist and Lesbian Rewritings of Cyberpunk Fiction," Modern Fiction Studies 43.3 (Fall 1997): 708-42.

After an introduction on/titled "The Problem of Cyberspace," Foster moves to his second section, "Embodied Virtuality and Feminist Narratives: 'Putting Embodiment Back in the Picture'" (quoting N. Katherine Hayles's 1999 How We Become Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics): "In this chapter, I focus on some of the most recently published examples of postcyberpunk feminist science fiction. At first glance, these narratives would seem to emphasize the importance of reasserting embodiment within social settings where computer-mediated communication has become the norm" (p. 472). On examination of such works as Forbes's Exit to Reality, however, we should note an ambiguity that makes the novel an attempt "to mediate between embodiment and virtuality." The key characters "begin the process of 'exiting to reality,' while at the same time treating the real world as something that they can and must participate in designing. Whereas a film like The Matrix treats the movement from virtual reality to the physical world as a narrative of liberation, Exit to Reality is less willing to abandon the critical perspective the virtual provides on the concept of the "real" and its exclusions." In the final section of Exit, Foster sees an implicit attempt "to separate the social reality that the experience of virtuality reveals to be a human design from the physical reality of the natural world, a physical reality that the novel" — Exit — "wishes to retain and revalue. But the point at which these two 'realities' converge and cannot be separated is the experience of embodiment" (p. 474).

RDE, finishing, 4Aug21, 5Aug23