After having just reviewed all of the course’s modern-day material for the midterm, I found it very interesting to note the parallels between the texts we began reading this week from the Middle Ages and the aforementioned modern ones we looked at in the first half of the semester. Whether these texts are examining mortality, ontology, religion or just what it means to be human, it becomes clear that many of the same questions have plagued humanity for years and years (like 800 years to be exact). For as much as we like to think we have advanced over time, the question now arises: are we really any “better” now then we were then? I feel like comparing the medieval texts and the modern texts will help determine whether there has been a so-called “myth of progress” throughout history.
Very much as Hayles associates posthumanism with “feelings of dread, possibility, and hope,” medieval writers felt similarly towards “the Other,” as we see in Bisclavret and in Thomas Forester’s translation of Irish tales. It seems clear, however, that the majority of those living in Medieval times were much less optimistic about the Other than we are today about the posthuman (at least in the media). While there are undoubtedly mixed feelings on both sides, some of us today (though not all) see technology more as something that we can control and manipulate for our own benefits. On the other hand, the Other is normally “created” by something that inspires fear (at least in me) such as God or a curse. Are humans correct in being more optimistic today about the Other, or should we be more wary of the rapid advancements being made in technology? This is not a question that is easily answered, although I personally believe that Hayles’ view of controlled optimism is the best way to approach it. I’m excited to read more about the Other in the Middle ages and juxtapose it with today’s posthuman, and perhaps come to a more conclusive answer on whether we are “better” or more advanced today than we were 800 years ago — has the human condition really improved?