Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of English
Deborah Slicer, Kathleen Kane
Ecocriticism, Entropy, Postmodernism, Romanticism, Technological Sublime
University of Montana
Mary Shelleyï¿½s Frankenstein is today remembered as the progenitor of the science fiction genre, the first major literary work to link a long history of fictional narratives concerning the origins of life ï¿½ notably drawing itself from the stories of Prometheus and Miltonï¿½s Paradise Lost ï¿½ to the scientific rationalism of the enlightenment. Of the science fiction stories that would follow, Philip K. Dickï¿½s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? perhaps remains one of the closest to Shelleyï¿½s novel in terms of its concerns and themes. Dickï¿½s text is concerned with the thematic of the creation of human simulacra, but its interests are more involved with the ethical implications of technological advancement on society than the fantastic technologies he writes of. Given these similarities, notions of nature and the environment might seem ancillary to an analysis of these texts. These issues, however, are precisely what my thesis claims to be central to a proper understanding of Dickï¿½s and Shelleyï¿½s novels. The aesthetic categories of the beautiful, and most importantly the sublime, are essential to this research. Both classic works of aesthetic theory ï¿½ namely Burke and Kant ï¿½ as well as mobilizations of the sublime that account for contemporary cultural trends ï¿½ such as those of Fredric Jameson and Jean-Francois Lyotard ï¿½ are utilized so as to track an epistemological shift in both conceptions of the sublime, as well as the relationship between humanity and its environment. This shift, from viewing the natural world as a space wherein humans immanently dwell, to a positivist notion of nature as resources for human manipulation ï¿½ documented in Caroline Merchantï¿½s The Death of Nature ï¿½ can be linked to what Leo Marx describes as the movement from a natural to a technological sublime, and is both chronicled and critiqued in Frankenstein. Dickï¿½s Androids picks up where Shelleyï¿½s novel leaves off, carrying an absolute ideological positivism to one possible conclusion, environmental and social crisis, inaugurating, interestingly, a return to a bizarre, and textually ironic spiritualism in the form of the religion Mercerism.
Schneeberger, Aaron Francis, "Aesthetics of the Brink: Environmental Crisis and the Sublime in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (2011). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 105.
© Copyright 2011 Aaron Francis Schneeberger