What is a posthumanist reading?

Stefan Herbrechter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-111
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

Bibliographical note

Author's note: - This peer-reviewed co-authored journal article is a major part of a series of interventions by Professor Ivan Callus (Head of English, University of Malta) and myself within the current debate on posthumanism (see our monograph Critical Posthumanism and our monograph series Critical Posthumanisms below). In this article Ivan Callus and I for the first time articulate a “methodology” and a conceptual framework for reading texts – in this particular case examples of filmic texts – from a speculative postanthropocentric perspective. From a critical and theoretical point of view posthumanism’s major achievement is opening up a possibility of reading texts through their implied or explicit anthropocentric presuppositions and ideological assumptions. The reading technique developed in this article is inspired by a combination of deconstruction, psychoanalysis, cultural materialism, feminism, postcolonialism and critical animal studies. It provides critical posthumanist readings of some major science fiction films like Terminator, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Bladerunner, Stepford Wives, Matrix, and Planet of the Apes. It forms the springboard for a much larger field of application where all texts from all ages will become readable from a critically posthumanist point of view.
The idea of a “posthumanist reading” has since been further developed by us in our forthcoming monograph and a number of other publications (Herbrechter, 2011, 2009; Herbrechter & Callus, 2011, 2007, 2004, 2003; Herbrechter & Callus, eds., 2009, 2004) and historically extended to examples of early modern drama (Shakespeare), and modernist fiction (Musil, Borges). The larger project that is announced in this article aims to provide readings of prefigurations of the posthuman that cover the entire five-hundred years’ history of Western modernity as reread from a posthumanist perspective.
Our interventions around posthumanist reading and critical posthumanism, leading up to this article and also since its publication, have led to a number of invitations to present at conferences, participate in special panels, to write contributions and to guest-edit special journal issues. Most recently, our proposal to guest-edit a special issue on “European Posthumanism” was accepted by the European Journal of English Studies 18 (2014).

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