How do medieval texts dealing with superhumans and posthumanism like “Bisclavret” and “Yonec” inform more contemporary works like “Ex Machina”? How might we benefit from looking at either text in terms other than period canonicity?
Sample Exam Question
“Moreover, shape or body is crucial, not incidental, to story. It carries story; it makes story visible; in a sense it is story.” (Bynum “Shape and Story” 180).
How might we apply Bynum’s regard of the body to Margery Kempe and the significance of her own body and her experiences?
In the medieval texts covered in class, such as “Bisclavret”, and “Of the Prodigies of Our Times, and First of a Wolf which Conversed with a Priest”, the animal transformations are unusual but are accepted. It is the focus on speech and understanding that is one of the determining factors on the humanity of the werewolves encountered. Why did medieval writers focus on this aspect of humanity, and how does it tie in with other examples of the medieval post/human experience?
Mock Exam Question
Steel – 12/1 OPTIONAL
Karl Steele’s chapter is largely concerned with shaking up preconceived notions of humans and their superiority. He cites several examples (like Marx pg. 5 and Augustine pg. 6) which insist on human beings’ superiority over all living things. Throughout the semester we have investigated ways in which “human” can (and should) be approached without such a bias. Do you think that the modern world still holds on to the opinion that humans are superior to all, or do you think that we are slowly moving away from this belief system? If not, how can we begin to move away from this bias?
Christ as posthuman – 11/29
At the end of his introduction, Bale states, “A human being is never just one thing or another; Kempe might be seen perfectly to encapsulate the paradox of human subjectivity…” (xxxiii). Approaching Kempe as a paradox of subjectivity allows us to read her Book with a posthuman lens. However, I think that the figure of Christ and Kempe’s relationships with Christ also allows for posthuman access. What examples/moments in the text might prompt a posthuman understanding of Christ?
Domesticity and Intimacy – 11/29
On pages xxiv – xxvi, Bale points our attention to the relationship between Kempe and Christ. He ends this section by asking, “Is a life lived through divine communication sacred or profane?” (xxvi). What do you make of Kempe’s relationship, devotion, and marriage to Christ (Chapters 35 and 36). Has Kempe’s religious devotion crossed the line and become profane? If you think that this kind of relationship with Christ is still sacred then why the need for such intimacy?
“Strong” Women and “Cowardly” Men: Expectations of Gender in Battlestar Galactica
In this paper, I intend to examine how Battlestar Galactica deals with gender and gender roles. In particular, I will focus on Starbuck and Gaius Baltar’s expressions of gender and how the show treats each character as a result. Starbuck in the original series was a man, but for the revival the character was reworked as a woman, while still retaining most key character traits. Thus, Starbuck is a gambling, hot-headed, rebellious ace pilot, who also happens to be a woman. While she is all of these things and no less a woman, she exemplifies a certain type of gender expression that Battlestar Galactica approves of. She excels through her masculine behaviors, which highlights a key fact. The world of Battlestar Galactica is not, in fact, a utopia in which gender is no longer an issue; it is a world saturated in masculinity, where the most valued traits are associated with men and strength, and things considered feminine are looked down upon. In order to show how this standard runs both ways, I want to contrast Starbuck, a masculine woman praised by the narrative, with Baltar, a feminine man shamed by the narrative. Though several critics have focused on what Starbuck’s character reveals about gender in Battlestar Galactica, what I found most interesting was how Baltar is condemned in the narrative for expressing more feminine traits. As Matthew Jones discusses in “Butch Girls, Brittle Boys, and Sexy, Sexless Cylons: Some Gender Problems in Battlestar Galactica,” Baltar does not fit in with the ideal of a brave, physical manly man, and is thus considered lesser in some way. Between Starbuck and Baltar, I can explore how a very specific gender ideal is being pushed in Battlestar Galactica. I also am considering working in an analysis of how Cylons view and express gender, but I am not quite sure what to focus on within that or how to approach the topic in a way that will fit with my work.
On Cloning: Moral Dilemmas, and Greater Societies Conscience
On Cloning: Moral Dilemmas, and Greater Societies Conscience
My paper will be done using prompt A, and I will take an in depth look at how the clones in the film The Island are treated. Using this film as my main source allows me to delve into the topic of cloning ethics. This gives me the ability to discuss and examine many different fields and areas that would be affected if cloning ever became a practical science in our lifetime or any other lifetime. The key issues I wish to analyze and discuss in my paper are the moral dilemmas and inherent problems that would arise in a society where human cloning is a practical science. The key topics of discussion will of course be ethics, bioethics, morality, civil liberties and psychological issues a clone would face in a post human society. The paper will look at this topic through a lens in which a society has already produced a human clone, and as an effect of this occurring, my paper will almost sort of put the entire issue of human cloning on trial. What I mean by this is the deliberation as well as the contemplation that would take place in an ethically sound and morally conscience society, basically their reaction to human cloning becoming a reality. So when I say trial I mean trial. I want to put the practice of human cloning on trial, weigh its pros and cons and see what potentially could happen in a society where they either choose to make human cloning illegal, or legal. This will allow me to look at this issue through the lens of a post humanist and try and understand the reasoning behind one who is potentially for human cloning and one who is against it, due to moral, religious, scientific, or cosmetic purposes. I also wish to really examine the identity issues and other psychological issues a clone may face in a world where it would not be entirely unique. This different perspective would also delve into the realm of legal and civil rights issues clones might face in a post human world. What rights would they have? Who would decide this? How would they exist? For what reason would they exist? This paper more than anything is an existential question concerning the post human clone and their potential civil liberties in a society.
“Big Brother: Shaping Humanity ”
For my extended research analysis, I will attempt to explore posthuman qualities in the 1932 novel, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The novel places itself in the wake of industrialization and in between the first and second world war. In an age where the concept of posthumanism did not yet exist, I will explore what makes this novel one. The novel lends itself to questioning the definition of the human and nonhuman within the scope of “new” technological advancements: eugenics, physical advancements, social conditioning, and even hypnopaedia. What is so special about this novel is despite being written in the early 20th century, it predicted numerous technological innovations that we struggle with today in terms of ethicality and practicality.
Another topic I will spend considerable amount on is the embodiment of the human. Not only will I discuss definitions, but also will discuss the limits evident in Brave New World of the human essence. However, one of my main focuses will be the government’s compliance in the making of the posthuman (em)body – a concept that has presented itself in our texts, yet has not been fully explored. Essentially, almost every novel and movie we have looked at are a result of a governmental procedure, funding, or experiment. After looking at what elements of the novel make it posthuman, I will then try to understand and delineate the government’s role as a catalyst for what societies define as human/nonhuman/posthuman and even transhuman. As a result, when looking at laws and regulations, we must understand and define the human in order to see where the government’s jurisdiction over it’s “peoples” lies, or does not lie. When we come to think of who or what is controlling how we perceive the world, the government is at the top of the list.
One of the biggest obstacles I think I’ll face in writing the essay is tying the posthuman with politics. These are such disparate areas of study with completely different approaches: one would appear to be scientific and the other a humanities methodology. However, I believe they intersect at the government – the issue will be proving this.
Another minor concern is my title. I usually reserve creating my titles to the end so this one might be a bit slack. Will definitely need some revision after the final draft.