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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

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

23rd March 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Nick Saul (Durham University)


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.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.