The concept of the “post-human” arose in the fields of science fiction and philosophy to describe a person or being that reconceives or otherwise goes beyond the human and is commonly associated with the current digital age. But centuries before the rise of post-humanism, the early modern period contemplated and complicated what being “human” means. This course will explore the pre-modern origins of post-humanism—a rich literary world of monsters, chimeras, machines, and “Othered” beings. How did writers in the early modern period define the human? What constituted the “Other” in the early modern period, and how were boundaries established and blurred on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, species, and other categories and distinctions? We will take a long historical approach through key literary texts to explore the early origins of some of our most pressing current-day investments related to the post-human. Texts we will consider include The Travels of John Mandeville, Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Discovery of Guiana, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Assignments will consist of in-class writing, a mid-term paper and presentation, and a final paper or project.
This course will be co-taught by Bernadette Andrea and Giorgina Paiella.