IAS Christopherson Knott Fellow's Seminar - The Emergence of the Posthuman in Dietmar Dath’s ‘Die Abschaffung der Arten’ (2008; ‘The Abolition of Species’): Narrative, Event, Complexity
Dath’s ‘evolutionary romance’, as the title indicates, belongs in the tradition of critical relectures and renarrations of Darwin’s master narrative of origin. In English and German literature these begin with Wells’s scifi ‘Time Machine’ and Olaf Stapledon’s ‘First and Last Men’, in German with Laßwitz’s ‘Auf zwei Planeten’ (‘On Two Planets’); in English and German theory with works from Bölsche’s ‘Liebesleben in der Natur’ (‘Love-Life in Nature’) to Elizabeth Grosz’s ‘Becoming Undone. Darwinian Reflections of Life, Politics and Art’. Now in his novel Dath tells of the failure of the human project and its undoing by newly intelligent animals. They however strategically manipulate evolutionary energies so as to create infinitely variable, non-species-specific corporeal forms (which the narrative compares with Egyptian animal fetish gods) as the expression and celebration of their transcendence of despised humanity. However the process of evolution continues ... In recent years, notably through the work of H. Porter Abbott, doubts have been raised about the ability of narrative, defined as structured by linear causality, to make manifest the complex causality characteristic of emergence. This paper asks how Dath in his epic both conceives and narrates the singular event (Zizek) of posthuman emergence, encompassing reflections on the emancipation of embodied human identity, interspecies ethics and interspecies communication.
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