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Towards a Posthuman Imagination in Literature and Media

Monsters, Mutants, Aliens, Artificial Beings


Simona Micali

What if the human species were to get in touch with another intelligent species, thus far unknown?

This question is the impetus for a vast, exciting catalogue of science fiction and fantasy stories. They serve as hypothetical answers in narrative form but can also be regarded as cognitive exercises by which we investigate the nature and destiny of humanity. In other words, any creature and any story produced in response to this question requires an assessment of our notion of the human and a redefinition of our position and role in the world.

This volume aims at mapping and analysing the very rich catalogue of non-human figures which inhabit our contemporary imagery, with particular regard to science fiction literature and film. It is suggested that monsters, clones, zombies, aliens, artificial beings, cyborgs and mutants can function as ideological tools intended to confirm the role of humankind (and Western civilization) as the only possible standard of intelligent and ethical life. But they can also become cognitive instruments devised to question or criticize our vision of and behaviour toward the world, other species and ourselves. This privileged critical perspective – and the point of arrival of the book – is the category of the posthuman, which is regarded as the symbol of a possibly revolutionary vision of humanity, a wish and an invitation to embrace a new, more humble way of being and living.

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I have been thinking of writing this book for about fifteen years, ever since I was a postgraduate student who simply enjoyed reading SF literature and watching SF film. Over such a long period, the steps which transformed this very personal inclination into a proper research work included conference papers, several university courses, some collaborative projects, and especially many, many discussions with colleagues, students and friends. So it is now quite easy to list the previously published works of mine in which I developed some of the critical perspectives and textual analyses which I am now reworking in a unitary form; while it is almost impossible to remember all the people who at some point or another have helped me to carry on this project. I apologize in advance to those I might forget to mention, and thank them here collectively and anonymously.

I shall therefore start from the publications. Some of the ideas and analyses which I am presenting here were the subject of the following contributions in scientific journals or edited volumes (all of them in Italian):

‘“The alchemic marriage”. Passione e tecnologia tra Ottocento e Novecento’, in P. Pellini (ed.), Letteratura e tecnologia (Manziana: Vecchiarelli, 2003), 53–8.

‘Displacement, straniamento, utopia: a spasso per altri mondi’, in R. Russi (ed.), Esilio (Firenze: Le Monnier, 2008), 90–101.

‘Apocalissi discrete. Tre ricette per salvare il pianeta’, in N. Scaffai (ed.), Letteratura e ecologia – special issue of Compar(a)...

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