Variables of the human: theoretical utopianisms and heterotopian science fictions Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
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  • Miller, Gerald Alva
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Gillings School of Global Public Health
Abstract
  • My dissertation examines a diverse array of contemporary science fiction texts to explore the genre's immanent relation to critical theory and to stage science fiction as its own form of theoretical work. In general, critics have argued that science fiction functions as a privileged genre for critical theory because its estranging settings engage the reader in a dialectical thought process by encouraging comparisons between the real world and a textual one. But, recently, science fiction novelists such as William Gibson have eschewed estranging settings and instead written novels set in a contemporary milieu. Existing theories of the genre cannot accommodate such a transformation in the genre's basic structure. Thus, my project provides an account of the emergent relation between science fiction and critical theory that does not exclude such recent examples of the genre and that demonstrates how different sci-fi texts generate particular avenues of critical inquiry. Each of the critical enterprises that I explore in this dissertation (gender theory, psychoanalysis, postmodern theory, and memory's relation to film) represents a unique theorization of the human, its boundaries, and our theoretical attempts to understand it. My project comprises four major underlying goals. First, it reconceptualizes science fiction according to a methodology that does not exclude recent mutations in the genre. Secondly, it depicts the manner in which science fiction should be considered a significant genre for literary and critical theory by elucidating how it functions as its own form of theoretical endeavor. Thirdly, it exhibits a new way of performing critical theory through the lens of literature; that is, it creates new possibilities for critical labor by demonstrating the radical kind of theoretical work that becomes possible only by means of genre structures. Finally, my dissertation illustrates why science fiction serves as one of the most compelling meditations upon the nature of the human and the all too human need to ascribe discrete values to that term. Indeed, my project argues that all critical theory--like all science fiction--essentially concerns the definition of the human and the attempts to theorize other states such as the non-human and the posthuman. Therefore, my project intervenes in a variety of critical discourses while simultaneously commenting upon the nature of critical theory itself.
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  • Flaxman, Gregory
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