Modernism and posthumanism

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Abstract

This chapter makes the case for the importance of the early twentieth century in the emergence of posthumanism. Beginning by tracing two of the earliest examples of the word ‘posthuman’, the chapter explores the social movements, philosophical departures and technological developments that encouraged writers to reassess the category of the human during this period. Exploring how a wide range of modernist writers reimagined the human through innovations in both form and content, it looks at the refiguring of life that we find in writers such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence, as well as the celebration of machines and technology that we find in Italian Futurism. Showing how for a range of modernist writers, posthumanism was associated with masculinity and even misogyny, the chapter sheds light on how for other writers posthumanism was used to feminist ends. Looking in particular at the feminist manifesto and poetry of Mina Loy, alongside the feminist essays and fiction of Woolf, the chapter suggests we find a form of posthumanism that foreshadows contemporary posthumanist feminism in certain ways, but which, in other respects, makes clear the difference between modernist thought and contemporary posthumanist theory. The chapter concludes by documenting the influence of modernism on the development of critical posthumanism and its potential to influence ongoing debates and discussion around what it means to be human.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave Handbook of Critical Posthumanism
EditorsStefan Herbrechter, Ivan Callus, Manuela Rossini, Marija Grech, Megan de Bruin-Molé, Christopher John Müller
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783030426811
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • modernism
  • modernity
  • futurism
  • vorticism
  • the posthuman

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