There have been some attempts to use posthuman theory to analyse literary fiction. N. Katherine Hayles seminal study How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers, traces some important posthuman themes and motifs in American fiction from the 1950’s and onwards; Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems, Bruce Clarke revises narratology in the light of Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory; Ira Livingston makes some interesting remarks on systems theory, self-reference and literary representation in Between Science and Literature: an Introduction to Autopoetics; finally we could mention the anthology Cy-Borges: Memories of the Posthuman in the Work of Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Ivan Callus and Stefan Herbrechter.
All these (and a few more) works contribute significantly to the understanding of posthuman theories as analytical tools for cultural theory (their ’pros and cons’ will be briefly touched upon in my presentation), and the mere difference in the approaches of these analyses is a proof to the versatility of posthumanist perspectives. However, to get a perhaps more coherent – but hopefully not reductive – framework for a posthumanist approach to cultural theory, I will suggest four levels – or approaches – in the analysis of literary texts (or other cultural artifacts). Taking literary studies as an example, the four levels are:
1) The study of posthuman themes and motifs
2) Posthuman approaches to the materiality of a) literary fiction, b) literary medium, c) literary analysis and d) presentation
3) Sociocybernetic, object-oriented and Actant-Network analyses on the agency of literary texts
4) Methodological concerns – could we for example perform a traditional analysis of (posthuman) themes and motifs without further consideration of posthuman epistemological issues? Is there such a thing as a post-humanist approach to the history of literature? And need a satisfactory posthuman analysis consider all three (or more) aspects mentioned above to be theoretically coherent?
In order to make use of these propositions, I will discuss a couple of the theoretical works mentioned above to see how they relate to this framework, and I will also briefly apply this model on one or two literary examples.
However – and this is important to stress – the suggested framework doesn't have any normative ambitions (nor will it be used to »grade» the often excellent theoretical approaches as presented by Hayles, Livingston, Clarke and others) but will rather function as a heuristic model for applying several posthuman aspects into the analysis of cultural artifacts.
Posthumanism, litteraturteori, kulturteori, Aktör-nätverks-teori, cybernetik, systemteori