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The Posthuman Comedy: Imagining the End of Literary History

What would a “posthumanist” American literary history look like? The series of essays brought together in my current book project converge on the question of the fate of literary institutions in a techno-scientific culture, and on how this question becomes imaginatively tied to the fate of the human as such. If, as is often said, our understanding of what it means to be human is derived from the stories we tell about ourselves, what are we when seen from vantage points utterly beyond the literary, or after literature’s end? Returning to a body of thought largely eclipsed by the skeptical poststructuralist/postmodern preoccupation with problems of epistemology, this book instead examines recent literary history in light one of the core questions of philosophical existentialism, linking it to a recent reassertion of the real in philosophies of science: what does the modern subject do with disturbing truths she cannot credibly deny? How, in light of these truths, does literature figure in the drama of existential commitment to what we value—indeed, to very concept of value as distinct from fact? The works I gather under the rubric of the Posthuman Comedy are those that, in their unusual fascination with the incommensurability of ordinary human experience and hard scientific explanation, make visible the high stakes of fiction in general. 

John F. Kennedy Institute