A Posthumanist Neo-Slave Narrative: Dismantling the Humanist Subject in Lilith’s Brood

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A Posthumanist Neo-Slave Narrative: Dismantling the Humanist Subject in Lilith’s Brood

Type: Master thesis
Title: A Posthumanist Neo-Slave Narrative: Dismantling the Humanist Subject in Lilith’s Brood
Author: Op de Beke, Laura
Issue Date: 2016-05-31
Keywords: Octavia Butler
Posthumanism
Neo-slave Narrative
Lilith's Brood
Xenogenesis Trilogy
American Literature
Science Fiction
Rationality
Autonomy
Authenticity
Subjectivity
Abstract: This thesis takes as its subject Octavia Butler’s science fiction trilogy Lilith’s Brood which it reads in the context of the neo-slave narrative, using the theoretical framework of posthumanism as its angle of inquiry. Most criticism concerning Lilith’s Brood fails to adequately address the discursive tension in the work between these two competing discourses: posthumanism and the neo-slave narrative. The alien invasion in Dawn for example is figured in highly contradictory terms. On the one hand it is cast in the historically grounded and emotionally charged, racialized terms of American slavery and oppression, on the other hand it is embraced as an occasion for a long overdue, radical transformation of the humanist subject into a posthuman one. The question of how these two discourses conflict and interact with each other is one that this thesis engages at length by analyzing the way Lilith’s Brood reconfigures three foundational concepts that are found in humanist philosophy – rationality, autonomy, and authenticity. According to posthumanism these virtues on which the humanist subject is founded delineate a narrow and exclusionary concept of the human. In Lilith’s Brood however they are reconfigured in order to extend to non-human creatures as well. At the same time this reconfiguration of subjectivity also more accurately describes the human condition when it is exposed in the light of posthumanism and stripped of its humanist pretentions. Each chapter takes one of the novels in the trilogy and demonstrates how it deconstructs one of these foundational concept: autonomy, authenticity and rationality. At the same time the themes of slavery and subjection run as a red thread throughout the work, at times corroborating Lilith’s Brood’s posthumanist message, at times problematizing it. In keeping these themes foregrounded the trilogy gives full expression to the struggle and danger that accompanies change, bravely acknowledging troublesome conclusions such as the inevitable inequality that haunts all power relations and the necessity of sacrifice.
Supervisor: Kardux, Joke
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: North American Studies (Master)
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/41854
 

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