Year of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Louise Economides

Commitee Members

Robert Baker, Deborah Slicer

Keywords

animals, becoming-animal, biotechnology, posthuman, science fiction, thing-power materialism

Publisher

University of Montana

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Environmental Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, North America | Science and Technology Studies

Abstract

This project traces how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, science fiction novels from the Romantic and contemporary literary periods respectively, contest the problematic relationships between subjecthood, science, ecological health, and patriarchal, capitalist societies by crafting radical materialist alternatives to such a system and its dualistic and destructive interpersonal/interspecies relations. Through the theoretical framework of ecofeminism that recognizes the conceptual linkages between women and nature in Western systems of thought, as well as psychoanalytical feminist critiques of the masculinization of scientific epistemology, this project examines the developmental and ontological overlaps between literary “masculine” and “scientific” subjects socialized under Western patriarchal capitalism and their exploitatively destructive responses to things associated with the “feminine” (i.e. the sensual body, nonhuman animals, people of color, ecological systems, spirituality).

The second half of this thesis investigates how the environmental group of Atwood’s trilogy practices a kind of radical materialist philosophy that resembles Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of “becoming-animal” and Jane Bennett’s apprehension of the enchanted materialism of the world of things to elucidate the inadequacy of dualist, patriarchal culture’s models for lived experience. The God’s Gardeners’ belief system advocates practicing a curious “attentiveness,” or sensual receptiveness, to nature in which an energetic, agential wilderness of nonhuman intentionality might be perceived and thereby enable a more interconnected across-species co-existence. The intercommunications between the transgenic animals, humanoid Crakers, and bizarre cult-like humans are a source of hope in that they suggest that our human-nature relation must henceforth be more carefully considerate of more-than-human interests than it has been, more biocentric in its scope as opposed to narrowly homocentric. This newfound sense of continuity helps one begin to think of nature as composed of living, breathing others with unique interests, which then propels one to engage in dialogic ethical responses to and interactions with nonhumans over the more unfortunate and historically popular dialectic between so-called free humans and mechanistic nonhuman natures. The combination of Atwood’s vision of interspecies alliances, Deleuze and Guattari’s politics of becoming, and Bennett’s enchanted stance toward nature provide a viable model of resistance to the continued destruction of the planet.

 

© Copyright 2015 Sarah Sydney Lane