Practising the Posthumanities: Evolutionary Animals, Machines and the Posthuman in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut

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Moore, Erica. "Practising the Posthumanities: Evolutionary Animals, Machines and the Posthuman in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard and Kurt Vonnegut." On-line dissertation, 11 November 2011. "Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of PhD in English Literature." UK (Wales): Cardiff University, 2011. 336 pp. As of the end of July 2023, available on-line here.[1]

SUMMARY (opening)

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. [***] (p. 2)

Includes a substantial bibliography of primary and (more so) secondary texts: pp. 322-332. (Note: Cites Thomas L. Wymer as co-compiler of "List of Works Useful ..." concluding The Mechanical God: Machines in Science Fiction; that should be Thomas P. Dunn.)


RDE, finishing, 29Jul23