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animal/machine: Technology, Subjectivity, and Species in Postwar Literature and Culture, 1945-1970

McCorry, Seán (2015) animal/machine: Technology, Subjectivity, and Species in Postwar Literature and Culture, 1945-1970. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Seán McCorry - Animal-Machine PhD eThesis with corrections.pdf
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Emerging work in animal studies and posthumanist theory has revealed the species boundary to be a site of contestation, where species identities are dissolved and refashioned according to the pressures of historical contingency. Cold War cultural criticism has shown that the years following the Second World War were marked by anxieties concerning the hegemony of technological reason, and in particular the new potential for mass death made possible by the technological militarism of the Cold War states. This period might be understood as a transition to ‘late modernity’, where the classical subject of humanism is everywhere being put under erasure by the emergence of technological forces which appear to diminish human agency and autonomy. For postwar critics of technology, these new forces threaten to bestialise the human, and I aim to show how figures of animality are central to the cultural work of respecifying human subjectivity in response to its dispersal by technology. This thesis traces the points of connection between the discourses of animal studies and Cold War criticism. Animal studies provides an account of the formation of the humanist subject of modernity through its abjection or transcendence of animality. I contend that this analysis must be supplemented by a closer attention to the culture of the postwar decades, where the more confident humanism of ‘high’ modernity is placed into crisis by the dominance of technological reason. At the same time, I aim to contribute to Cold War criticism through my contention that its key preoccupations—including individualism and mass culture, social conformism, technological anxieties and nuclear conflict—are articulated through a discourse of species that has remained largely unexamined. This thesis covers a range of materials including mid-century farm fictions, science fiction critiques of mass culture, critical-theoretical indictments of instrumental reason, and the military discourses of nuclear strategists. I argue that in all of these textual locations human subjectivity is revealed as precarious, threatened by the dual pressures of technological development and imperfectly transcended animality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Animal Studies; Cold War culture; posthumanism; postwar literature; Science Fiction Studies; Science and Technology Studies
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.690146
Depositing User: Dr Seán McCorry
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2016 12:15
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:26
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11352

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