Technology & the Human: Rethinking Posthumanism
Brandeis University English Department Graduate Conference
Friday, April 1, 2016

Recent years have seen a mounting popular and critical fascination, at times apocalyptic, at times celebratory, with the “age of the computer.” The rise of new technologies has prompted what has been described as a crisis of the human, necessitating a reconfiguration of the Enlightenment notion of the human as the rational and universal measure of all things. Posthumanism seeks to articulate these reconfigurations, but also to question their limitations. How is the rational human superseded by computer intelligence? How does the machine relate to the traditional dyad of body and mind? How can we reconcile the fact that digital and bio technologies not only modify the way knowledge is produced but also our bodies themselves?  In light of earlier historical technological advances which had profound impacts on human subjectivity, and indeed the human physiology, how justified is the view that the current challenges of technology are unprecedented in scale? For instance, is it warranted to view the introduction of the wheel, the printing press or the steam engine as less transformative than the current digital transformation? Does the debate surrounding these questions constitute such a radical break with the humanist conception of the human as initially expected? Most importantly, what is the critical productivity of examining the crisis of the human?

In this conference, we would like to foster debate over the extent to which the posthuman actually reconceptualizes the human subject. Literature evidences the fact that the relationship between humans and technology has been a primary concern across time. It has not only been thematized within many alternative literary genres like science-fiction and the gothic but has also been prominent in most literary forms, modes, and genres. To investigate this relationship between technology and the human subject  in its changing forms over time, we invite literature studies and interdisciplinary abstracts from a wide range of historical periods. Please send abstracts of 200-300 words to by January 10, 2016. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • systems & networks (economic and social) 
  • knowledge & data
  • economics 
  • materiality
  • technogenesis
  • technology (scientific, economic, industrial, medical, etc.)
  • evolutionary change & technological advance
  • narrative or other technologies of literature
  • technologies of the body, of gender/sex
  • body & embodiment
  • cognition (conscious & nonconscious)
  • human-animal relations
  • cybernetics
  • cyborgs
  • clones
  • biotechnology
  • bio markets & genomics
  • late Capitalism
  • pre-digital technology & the human
  • print culture
  • digital culture
  • science fiction 
  • the Gothic
  • the non-human (animals, robots, aliens, monsters, zombies, vampires, ghosts, superheroes)
  • anthropocentrism & the anthropocene
  • the Other, othered bodies, othered beings
  • conditions of production (of the body, of techology, of products)
  • mind, machine, body
  • Enlightenment
  • humanism, universalism
  • naturalism
  • realism
  • the supernatural
  • fantasy
  • dystopia
  • video games