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Medial Bodies Between Fiction and Faction: Reinventing Corporeality
 9783837647297, 9783839447291

Table of contents :
Introduction. Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality
I. Hybrid Bodies
Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon:On Some Issues from Superior Iron Man (2014-2015)
Robots which draw.How BioArt rethinks Body and Hybridity
Artificial human beings and the power of literature: Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Holmberg, and Piglia
The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation: From The Water-Babies to Real Humans
II. Bodies Unbound: Disability, Ability, Enhancement
From Disability to Enhancement: Paradoxical Representations of Prosthetic Bodies in the Media Discourse
Disability as Malleability: The Prosthetic Metaphor, Merleau-Ponty and the Case of Aimee Mullins
The Protean Self
Detecting Bodies: The Dystopian Detective Filmand Narratives of Reproduction
III. Corporeal Interfaces
The Cinematic Body.A reflection on the status of the sentient bodyin film theory
Embodying the Reader: Perspectives on Fiction, Cognition, and the Body
Medial Bodies: Forays into Artistic and Philosophical-Anthropological Research
The Aberrant Medial Body. Visual Representations of Self-Harming Behavioron Social Network Sites
List of Authors

Citation preview

Denisa Butnaru (ed.) Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction

body cultures

Denisa Butnaru (Dr.), born in 1980, is the principal investigator of the project “Deviant Bodies. Extended Bodies”. The project is funded by the German Research Council (DFG) and based at the University of Konstanz. Her major fields of interest include theories of subject and subjectivity in phenomenology, sociology of the body, science and technology studies, disability studies, and qualitative methodology in social sciences. Her research focuses on the transformation of the body by recent technologies, such as exoskeletons, while using the phenomenology of the body as a theoretical background.

Denisa Butnaru (ed.)

Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction Reinventing Corporeality

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at http://

© 2020 transcript Verlag, Bielefeld All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Cover layout: Maria Arndt, Bielefeld Typeset by Justine Buri, Bielefeld Printed by Majuskel Medienproduktion GmbH, Wetzlar Print-ISBN 978-3-8376-4729-7 PDF-ISBN 978-3-8394-4729-1 Printed on permanent acid-free text paper.

Contents Introduction Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality Denisa Butnaru........................................................................................................................... 7

I. Hybrid Bodies Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon: On Some Issues from Superior Iron Man (2014-2015) Stephan Packard.......................................................................................................................21

Robots which draw. How BioArt rethinks Body and Hybridity Bianca Westermann................................................................................................................... 41

Artificial human beings and the power of literature: Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Holmberg, and Piglia Matthias Hausmann...................................................................................................................61

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation From The Water-Babies to Real Humans Ursula Kluwick.......................................................................................................................... 85

II. Bodies Unbound: Disability, Ability, Enhancement From Disability to Enhancement Paradoxical Representations of Prosthetic Bodies in the Media Discourse Valentine Gourinat................................................................................................................... 107

Disability as Malleability The Prosthetic Metaphor, Merleau-Ponty and the Case of Aimee Mullins Luna Dolezal............................................................................................................................ 125

The Protean Self Denisa Butnaru........................................................................................................................ 147

Detecting Bodies The Dystopian Detective Film and Narratives of Reproduction Gero Guttzeit............................................................................................................................ 165

III. Corporeal Interfaces The Cinematic Body A reflection on the status of the sentient body in film theory Stefan Kristensen....................................................................................................................189

Embodying the Reader Perspectives on Fiction, Cognition, and the Body Marco Caracciolo.................................................................................................................... 205

Medial Bodies Forays into Artistic and Philosophical-Anthropological Research Martin Dornberg and Daniel Fetzner........................................................................................221

The Aberrant Medial Body Visual Representations of Self-Harming Behavior on Social Network Sites Julius Erdmann....................................................................................................................... 245

List of Authors..................................................................................................................... 263

Introduction Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality Denisa Butnaru The “body turn”, which started to develop in the 1980s and gave birth to what has been recently named body studies, is at present strongly challenged by achievements in the technological field. According to the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the body is our general medium for having a world. Sometimes it is restricted to the actions necessary for the conservation of life, and accordingly it posits us a biological world; at other times, elaborating upon these primary actions and moving from their literal to a figurative meaning, it manifests through them a core of new significance: this is true of such motor habits such as dancing. Sometimes, finally, the meaning aimed at cannot be achieved by the body’s natural means; it must then build itself an instrument, and it projects thereby around itself a cultural world (Merleau-Ponty, [1945] 1962, p. 169). Due to ongoing medical developments in information technologies (IT), together with recent theoretical interventions such as posthumanism (Bostrom & Savulescu, 2009; Hayles, 1999; Wallach & Allen, 2009; Wolfe, 2010) our understanding of corporeality is strongly challenged. Some of these views encourage an epistemology of radical change of human nature while promoting a specific ideological form. Theoretical conceptualizations of the posthuman (Braidotti, 2006; Braidotti, 2013; Hayles, 1999) often engage with extensions, multiplicities, and reformulations of the human body’s biological and cultural boundaries, advancing new representations and materialities. As advances in the fields of bionics, biotechnology or genetics, performance art projects along the lines of Stelarc, or cyborg experiments such as those conducted by Kevin Warwick or Neil Harbisson show, ideas of what constitutes the body are consistently being extended. Certainly, hybridity processes have constantly marked the development of human beings. What is new, however, is that if various objects and technologies previously accompanied the human body from


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the outside, at present, as the cyborg example shows, objects are incorporated in the biological structure of the body, challenging its biological consistency. In addition, the overgrowing presence of media technologies and hence of virtual realities into our everyday lives questions our corporeal boundaries and relations to the material world further. Recent films such as Her (2014), Transcendence (2014), and Ex Machina (2015) or Blade Runner 2049 (2017) point for instance to the prominent position which the altering of bodily identity and the negotiation between human and other material forms hold in the popular imagination. And yet, despite the fictional content of these examples, the everyday reality of our bodies is gradually sliding towards these models of being. The developments sketched above draw attention to a new phenomenon, namely that forms of corporeality which until recently were the subject of science fiction have entered the realm of the real, disputing such categories as identity or intersubjectivity, inseparable from corporeality. In some sociological theoretical perspectives, the body was defined as being both a producer and a product of different social structures (Gugutzer, 2012). However, the development of medical technologies and the virtual field supported by new media gadgets, such as smartphones (Frith, 2015), change the content of our experiences and consequently the functions of the body. Thus the body—both in its cultural and biological understanding—seems not to represent a guarantee for individual limits anymore. Instead, it disrupts them, affirming itself as plastic (Mansfield, 2017, p. 355) by its very incorporation of new material elements and constant expansion. Hence one may acknowledge it as a malleable texture with negotiable boundaries, a terrain to be newly charted and explored: in short, as medial. The aim of this volume is to address this aspect from a transdisciplinary perspective. The medial body shall be understood in the context of this volume as a transitional environment between fiction and faction. Hitherto, various phenomena attendant on the transformation of bodily perspectives have been analyzed separately by disciplines such as cultural, media, literary or visual studies, or science and technology studies (STS), the philosophy of science (Allouche, 2009; Baertschi, 2009), or sociology and anthropology (Mol, 2002; Schroer, 2005; Meloni, 2016). In the literary fiction and performance arts, the understanding of the body as a matter that can be transformed was advanced (Smith, 2005; Dixon, 2007). The emergence of social media, the growing importance of virtual reality and technology have also led to new forms and definitions of the body’s role in the configuration of our identities and our intersubjective relations (Boler, 2007; Brophy, 2010; Shifman, 2014). Yet, what is missing are studies that highlight the interactive transfer between the construction of bodily models in fiction and their factual implementation in certain discourses and practices, an intention that the present collection intends to fulfill. The purpose is to provide a transdisciplinary perspective on the processes at stake in the emergence of the

Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality

medial body and the manner in which they change the more global understanding of corporeality, while defending a new epistemological category: that of faction. To associate examples of fictional and factual nature shall provide a rich framework in order to understand the development of this relatively recent phenomenon, but also to reformulate the category of faction on new epistemological bases. Whereas fiction is a concept which has a long history and is often the object of studies in theory of literature (Genette, 2004; Cohn, 2000; Zipfel, 2014), faction is a concept occurring both in literary studies (Zander, 1999; Rubie, 2009) and sociological narrative analysis (Bury, 2001, p. 282). In literary studies, faction refers to how facts are appropriated in a fictional environment. In the second case, where the scientific object is represented by factual discourses, faction points out to how facts are artificially produced in narrative interviews carried in sociology, anthropology or psychology. The latter conception evokes the idea of a choice which interviewees make in divulging the recounted details. The use of this term in the present collection shall refer neither to the quality of an entity as being invented as it is assigned to fictional narratives (Genette, 2004; Abbott, 2008), nor to a factual objective description. The understanding of the term faction shall denote here the status of an intermediary imaginary within which the medial body presents itself as a semantic horizon of possibilities. More precisely, faction pertains to the shifts of meaning which endorse the body’s characteristic of “mediality”. What characterizes faction is the process of assimilation of a bodily imaginary which is initially fictionally or science-fictionally elaborated and then further appropriated or acknowledged within factual structures of everyday life. If the body’s qualities of extensibility and malleability have been strongly highlighted in recent studies (Crawford, 2014; Durt, Fuchs & Tewes, 2017; de Vignemont, 2018), what is lacking in the context of contemporary debates is a focus on how imaginaries travel between fact and fiction, shaping novel conceptions of corporeality. Anthropologically, different levels of imaginaries (Castoriadis, 2005, p. 127) have steadily molded the history of humanity. The discussions referring to these changes restate what it means to be a body, and more specifically to be a body which reinvents its own corporeality. This phenomenon is relatively new, echoing the emergence of a posthuman body, which as Luna Dolezal notes, “is a body of possibility and often augmented capability, modified or enhanced by surgeries, genetics, prosthetics, implants and technologies which blur the lines between self and other, human and animal, man and machine” (Dolezal, 2017, p. 61). The body seems to constantly set boundaries and present itself as a site supporting the existence and co-existence of various forms of imaginary. In the following what is understood under the category of imaginary evokes such states



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when we want to talk about something ‘invented’—whether this refers to a ‘sheer’ invention (‘a story entirely dreamed up’), or a slippage, a shift of meaning in which available symbols are invested with other significations than their ‘normal’ or canonical significations (Castoriadis, 2005, p. 127). What is needed in the context of these transformations is an inquiry on the migration and interchange of various imaginaries generated by the material modifications of the body and the “shift of meaning” they produce. Such processes highlight radically changed representations of the body, focusing on their translation from one stock-of-knowledge (Wissensvorrat) (Schütz, [2004] 1932) to another, or from one stock of experience to another. This translation ref lects changes produced by different discursive, experiential, and semantic spheres where such a transposition occurs. It is widely acknowledged that aesthetic processes and more globally human experience are often based on shifts of meaning. However, what is crucial to observe in the case of a transition between fictional bodily produced models and factual ones is how this transition justifies the change in our experience and our stocks-of-knowledge-at-hand (Schütz, 1970). Furthermore, since some of the contributions refer explicitly to the reformulation of a disabled body by means of introduction of technologies into a new body (Butnaru, Dolezal, Guttzeit, Packard), a body which can be defined as too-abled, the shifts of meaning are also analyzed in practical terms. Fiction and fact meet therefore at the level of praxis, their encounter being especially recognizable in some examples developed in the posthuman movement but also in examples which can be spotted in contemporary societies. One of these examples refers, for instance, to the appropriation of an exceptional model or a corporeal model that was thought to be inaccessible or simply a fancy project and which later becomes concretized and accepted as an everyday structure. Disability or inability transformed by technologies belongs to this category. An interesting point of inquiry in these transitions are those resources mobilized in the transfer from fiction to fact or from science-fiction to science-fact and the role this transition plays for the medial body. In fact, a crucial part in the acceptance of this transition may be held by art performances, literary narratives or media discourses of transformed bodies, since they have a clear contribution to the reformulation of factual imaginaries. Along with these, one may mention current representations advanced by newly developed technologies on the production and often (re)production of corporeality (Baldi, 2001) in such fields as bionics or genetics. Using an interdisciplinary background, the aim of the present collection is to elaborate on the concept of “medial body”. Examples such as prosthetics, bodily composition(s) in a literary narrative or bodily translation into a virtual environment, more generally the topics of hybridization or augmentation, and last but

Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality

not least perspectives associated with a transhumanist or posthumanist epistemological perspective (Bostrom & Sandberg, 2011; Hughes, 2004; Kurzweil, 2005) are central in defining this concept as highly relevant for contemporary interdisciplinary research (Bloustien & Wood, 2013; Sobchak, 2004; Westermann, 2012). The medial quality of the body has been defended very often in performance arts or media studies. Artists such as Orlan, Stelarc or Gina Pane are known worldwide for their work in which they use their own body as a material for the realization of their performances. In addition, the development of biotechnologies, prosthetics (Smith & Morra, 2006), neurosciences and the revolution created by social media contributes to a further reformulation of our bodily limits. And yet, the body’s property of realizing a transition from fictional to factual models of experience and knowledge in a cross-disciplinary perspective, combining literary studies, virtual and cinematographic examples or philosophical and sociological discourses, is missing. The intention of this volume is precisely to address how such a transition is realized and how it contributes to the definition of a medial body. The analyzed cases intend to show how through the migration between fiction and fact the body supports the production of faction while translating, transforming, and blending imaginaries. The originality of this volume resides in that it does not intend to show that the formation of the medial body is a result of blurring semantic reservoirs of knowledge, as the poststructuralist orientation has often stressed (Deleuze & Guattari, 1972). The intention is rather to point out how the body in being an environment allows for the transfer of a meaning license from fiction to fact. By a movement between a “body image” (Gallagher& Zahavi, 2008, p. 146) occurring in a fictional story and a body image emerging factually as a response to a scientific or social set of meanings, the contributions in this volume question semantic transposition mechanisms that are at stake in the circularity between fiction and factuality leading to faction. If in literary studies some scholars defend a clear separation between fiction and reality (Kablitz, 2003, p. 258), or fiction and factuality (Cohn, 2000, pp. 35-36), with the development of new media forms and their corresponding narratives (digital, interactive) the correlation fact-fiction that is applied to bodily representations has acquired new levels of semantization. Furthermore, bio-art or bionics show that the body has become an experimental field which acknowledges the articulation of parallel epistemological orders, defying such categories as “natural” or “unnatural” corporeality forms. As Mireille Lévy argues, “corporeity is involved in the narrative quest of identity” (Lévy, 2008, p. 112). Thus from the mythological figure of Prometheus to fictive characters in literary works, such as the monster in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein or the machine-woman in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s Eve future which found a visual correspondent in Fritz Lang’s well known film Metropolis (1927), the body



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represents a point which challenges notions of identity and, on a larger scale, the status of the human condition. Those patterns coming from a literary fictional milieu, but also some others that are connected to the virtual world of information technologies, robotics or medical research, are necessary in order to capture the richness of the translational movement, which occurs between fictional and virtual imaginaries (may they be in literary narratives, visual art or computer software) in which hybrid or materially altered bodies are present. These imaginaries of fictional provenience may sometimes interfere with projects which are factual/ real in their nature and consequences. As the individual case studies included in this volume show, the body supports the production of faction through the migration of imaginaries between fact and fiction: the medial body blends, transforms, and translates imaginaries, spotting the echo of fictional scenarios in factuality, and contributing to a process in which what has been thought to be extraordinary (Bröckling et al., 2015), becomes real, and therefore ordinary. Among the central questions that the contributions address are the following: Which mechanisms qualify the body as medial in literary narratives, virtual, cinematographic or sociological discourses? How does the reception process of some fictional or factual bodies produce a second form of mediality by the resonance which is intrinsic to the reading, watching or even interviewing process as is the case in sociological research? How do the transition between fiction and fact and their reciprocal incorporation contribute to the emergence of the medial body? What kind of body images develop in this transition and how do they support the circularity between fictional imaginaries and factual imaginaries? What kind of corporeality is produced by recent prosthetic technologies in the context of disability? How are these technologies appropriated and what is their role in reformulating corporeality in general?

Overview of the volume The essays which follow seek to address various aspects of the medial body, while discussing both fictional as well as fact related examples. The first part of the volume—Hybrid Bodies and Bodies in Creation—includes contributions which analyze various hybridity forms. Stephan Packard and Bianca Westermann focus upon bodies which are technologically invented, while stressing the ideas of malleability and expansion of corporeality. They explicitly refer to the figure of the cyborg and the category of hybridity. Whereas Packard focuses upon examples from comics, such as Superior Iron Man, Westermann discusses the impact of art projects, such as MEART of the artistic laboratory SymbioticA on the conception of a medial body and its challenges to rethink its cultural and biological conceptualizations. Mathias Hausmann provides a literary analysis of fictional examples in

Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality

the works of Villiers de L’Isle-Adam and Ricardo Piglia in which the main intent is the production of a perfect female body. The last text in this section, that of Ursula Kluwick, stresses processes of corporeal metamorphosis (from human body into water, or from human body into animal forms) as well as of invention of humanoid corporealities while focusing on further fictional examples: the novels The Water Babies (1863) by Charles Kingsley and Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker, and a very recent TV series, Real Humans (2012, 2013). The common denominator of the contributions in the second part of the volume—Bodies Unbound—is the categorical tension between corporeal disability and corporeal enhancement. This tension further challenges the more general conception of bodily ability. While considering the example of prosthesis, Valentine Gourinat and Luna Dolezal question the possibilities of bodily mediality in concrete factual cases. Gourinat turns to media discourses on amputees’ representations of cyborgs, while Dolezal questions the commercial and artistic representations of the well-known athlete and fashion model, Aimee Mullins, while correlating it to the phenomenological heritage of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In a similar vein, the tension that deficiency creates in terms of something missing which needs to be filled in or corrected, respectively augmented, is addressed in the contributions of Denisa Butnaru and Gero Guttzeit. Whereas Butnaru inquires into the acceptance of rehabilitative technologies such as exoskeletons in narrative interviews in sociology and their potential to modify conceptions of self, Guttzeit’s essay focuses on the intersection between factual narratives of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and detective fiction in three motion pictures: Gattaca (1997), Code 46 (2003), and Predestination (2014). Thus factual and fictional examples are mobilized in order to draw attention to possibilities of disclosing new forms of human corporeality. Finally, the third part of the collection—Corporeal Interfaces—comprises essays addressing the idea of a resonating body, a body which finds itself at the intersection of various discourses and practices, such as film, literary studies, social network sites or performative art projects. Similarly to Luna Dolezal’s approach, some essays in this part of the volume rely on philosophical concepts from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body. Marco Caracciolo for instance uses the background of the phenomenology of the body in order to stress “how— via literary interpretation—characters’ bodies can be reabsorbed into the everyday experience” (this volume), defending the idea of a body as an important site of negotiation of a fictional narrative’s meanings. Another phenomenological concept at the core of further essays in this part of the volume is intercorporeality. This serves for instance as a basis for Stefan Kristensen’s analysis of the role of a cinematic body and for Martin Dornberg and Daniel Fetzner’s presentation of art performances in which Skype is used. Kristensen’s contribution focuses on the structure of the filmic apparatus and its relation to the perceiving body



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while analyzing Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville’s Here and Elsewhere (1974) and discussing Gilles Deleuze’s reading of this film. His intention is to show how a cinematographic experience is extended at the factual level, transforming the structure of our sentient body. Dornberg and Fetzner rely on Gilles Deleuze’s concepts of “assemblage”, “fold” or “rhizomatics”, on Michel Serrres’s category of “parasite”, and on the contemporary enactive phenomenology orientation defended by Thomas Fuchs & Hanne de Jaegher in order to support a transdisciplinary perspective of a medial body. Their focus is on reactions that improvisation artists provoke to show how the body gains new dimensions through artistic practices. Addressing a very contemporary phenomenon, namely the display of self-harm body images on social network sites, Julius Erdmann focuses on how the performance and transformation of these deviant body images redefine the user’s online and off line persona, showing how the virtual realm contributes to new understandings of the “medial body”. If there are numerous monographs and collective volumes treating of fiction (Pavel, 1989; Lamarque & Stein, 1994; Sainsbury, 2010; Sauerberg, 1991) media or mediality (Kilborn, 2003; Ryan, 2001; Ryan, 2004; Ryan, 2006), the concern with the transition of imaginary models developed in a fictional environment and further identified at the level of everyday life has not yet been addressed. The contributions in this edited volume aim to give a transdisciplinary account of the notion of “medial body” and to show its genuine character by means of a multiplicity of perspectives. While defending the heuristic potential of the category of “faction” and using concrete examples coming from literary fiction, media studies, philosophy, performance arts, and social sciences the intention is to point at how bodily models thought not long ago to be only fictional products have become at present a part of our concrete reality.

Acknowledgements This volume has been in preparation for a long time. The editor would like to acknowledge her debt towards the German Research Council (DFG) for their financial support to the Research Training Group 1767 “Factual and Fictional Narration” at the University of Freiburg and to the project “Deviant Bodies. Extended Bodies” BU 3417/2-1 at the University of Konstanz. This joint funding made possible the publication of this book. I am particularly grateful for the valuable help of Prof. Monika Fludernik (University of Freiburg) and Prof. Stephan Packard (University of Cologne), who supported the project of this volume from its early phases and offered me essential feedback for its conception. I owe a deep debt for careful readings and comments of the texts in the volume as well as for various variants of proposals for the publication of the volume to Dr.

Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality

Ursula Kluwick (University of Bern). She invested tremendous time in the conception of this book. My greatest thanks to my former colleagues at the University of Freiburg, Barbara Wodarz and Marc Wurich, for their stimulation and generosity in providing me with comments and valuable discussions about the categories of “fiction” and “fact”. I would also like to thank Dr. Hanna-Myriam Häger, Nadine Menghin and Lena Kolb for accompanying me in the last phases of this project. And last but not least, I wish to thank all the contributors in this volume for their patience in seeing this book through to its final form. It was a long journey of perseverance.

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Castoriadis, Cornelius (2000). The Imaginary Institution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005. Cohn, Dorrit (2000). The Distinction of Fiction. Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Crawford Cassandra (2014). Phantom Limb. New York; London: New York University Press. Deleuze, Gilles, & Guattari, Félix (1972). Anti-Oedipus (Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, & Helen R. Lane, Trans.). London; New York: Continuum. Dixon, Steve (2007). Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation. Cambridge; London: MIT Press. Dolezal, Luna (2017). Representing Posthuman Embodiment: Considering Disability and the Case of Aimee Mullins. Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 46(1), 60-75. Durt, Christoph, Fuchs, Thomas, & Tewes, Christian (2017). Embodiment, Enaction and Culture. Cambridge Ma.; London: MIT Press. Fludernik, Monika (1996). Towards a “Natural” Narratology. London: Routledge. Fludernik, Monika (2012). How Natural Is “Unnatural Narratology”; or, What Is Unnatural about Unnatural Narratology? Narrative 20(3), 357-370. Frith, Jordan (2015). Smartphones as locative media. Cambridge: Polity Press. Gallagher, Shaun, & Zahavi, Dan (2008). The Phenomenological Mind. New York: Routledge. Genette, Gérard (2004). Fiction et diction. Paris: Seuil. Gugutzer, Robert (2012). Body Turn. Bielefeld: transcript. Hayles, Katherine N. (1999). How we became Posthuman. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Hughes, James (2004). Citizen Cyborg. Cambridge: Westview Press. Kablitz, Andreas (2003). Kunst des Möglichen. Prolegomena zu einer Theorie der Fiktion. Poetica 35, 251-273. Kilborn, Richard (2003). Staging the real. Factual TV Programming in the Age of Big Brother. Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press. Kurzweil, Ray (2005). The Singularity is near: When Humans transcend Biology. New York: Viking. Lamarque, Peter, & Stein, Haugom Olsen (1994). Truth, Fiction and Literature: a Philosophical Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lévy, Mireille (2008). L’identité narrative dans l’interaction corps-conscience. In Marie-Genviève Pinsart (Ed.), Narration et identité (pp. 79-112). Paris: Vrin. Mansfield, Becky (2017). Folded futurity: Epigenetic plasticity, temporality, and new thresholds of fetal life. Science as Culture 26 (3), 355-379. Meloni, Maurizio (2016). Political Biology: Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics. New York: Palgrave.

Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice ([1945] 1962). Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge. Mol, Annemarie. (2002). The body multiple. Ontology in medical practice. Durham: Duke University Press. Pavel, Thomas (1989). Fictional Worlds. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Rubie, Peter (2009). The Elements of Narrative Nonfiction: How to Write and Sell the Novel of True Events. Fresno, CA: Linden Publishing. Ryan, Marie-Lauren (2001). Narrative as Virtual Reality. Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Ryan, Marie-Lauren (2004). Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Ryan, Marie-Lauren (2006). Avatars of Story. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Sainsbury, Richard M. (2010). Fiction and Fictionalism. London: Routledge. Sauerberg, Lars Ole. (1991). Fact into Fiction: Documentary Realism in the Contemporary Novel. London: Macmillan. Schroer, Markus (2005). Soziologie des Körpers. Frankfurt am Main.: Suhrkamp. Schütz, Alfred ([1932] 2004). Der sinnhafte Auf bau der sozialen Welt. Konstanz: UVK,. Schütz, Alfred (1970). Ref lections on the Problem of Relevance. New Haven: Yale University Press. Shelley, Mary ([1818] 2012). Frankenstein. London: Longman. Shifman, Limor (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge; London: MIT Press. Smith, Marquard (2005). Stelarc: The Monograph. Cambridge; London: MIT Press. Smith, Marquard, & Morra, Joanne (2006). The Prosthetic Impulse. Cambridge; London: MIT Press. Sobchak, Vivian (2004). Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Berkley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press. De Vignemont, Frédérique (2018). The Extended Body Hypothesis: Referred Sensations from Tools to Peripersonal Space. In Albert Newen, Leon De Bruin & Shaun Gallagher (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition (pp. 389-404). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Auguste de. ([1886] 1992). L‘Eve future. Paris: Flammarion. Wallach, Wendel, & Allen, Colin. (2009). Moral Machines: Teachnig Robots Right from Wrong. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Westermann, Bianca (2012). Anthropomorphe Maschinen. Grenzgänge zwischen Biologie und Technik seit dem 18. Jahrhundert. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. Wolfe, Carry (2010). What is Posthumanism? Minnesota: Combined Academic Publishers. Zander, Horst (1999). Fact—Fiction—‘Faction’. A Study of Black South African Literature in English. Tübingen: Narr.



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Zipfel, Frank (2014). Fiktionssignale in Fiktionalität, In Tobias Klauk & Tillmann Köppe (Eds.), Fiktionalität: Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch (pp. 97-124). Berlin; New York: De Gruyter.

Filmography Cameron, James (2009). Avatar (film). USA. Garland, Alex, Macdonald, Andrew (2015). Ex Machina (film). Great Britain. Jonze, Spike, Ellison, Megan (2014). Her (film). Great Britain. Lang, Fritz, Pommer, Erich (1927). Metropolis (film). Germany. Pfister, Wally, Thomas, Emma (2014). Transcendence (film). Germany. Villeneuve, Denis, Johnson, Brodehrik (2017). Blade Runner 2049 (film). USA.


I. Hybrid Bodies

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon: On Some Issues from Superior Iron Man (2014-2015) Stephan Packard Fictional and factual treatments of the cyborg necessarily deal with concepts and experiences of the body. Fictional treatments moreover will typically deal with differing body images which may appear in the direct visual modality of an optically observable, pictorial depiction of bodies and their transformations, or, in a broader sense of body images, which may see that depiction combined with or replaced by different semiotic modes that approach body experiences in different senses or translate the visual aspects of the body to other media. The intricate tensions within the imaginary between visual picture, multimodal image, and fictional or factual imagination capture some aspects of the contemporarily renegotiated social attitude in encounters with actual or imagined cyborgs, at once trading on established conceptions of sociality and its media treatment and the utopian insistence on possible widenings of their scope. I argue that comics’ multidimensional exploration of pictorial and multimodal body imagery and more specifically the unreliability of the cartoon as one of their central devices are well suited to examine, appropriate, mirror, and subvert mainstream fixations of emerging real as well as utopian figures of the cyborg. One fruitful focus of such an examination concerns reconnecting the imaginary explicitly with the gazes on which it depends and to which it demonstrates itself. Following Butnaru’s1 sketch of a specific understanding of ‘faction’ as an imaginary in which fictional elements affect factual states and sometimes materialize as real elements, I take my departure from the actual contested gaze on one self-described real-world cyborg that might serve as a paradigmatic case. I compare this with the treatment of elusive cyborg bodies in the short-lived comics series Superior Iron Man (2014-2015), in which the tensions surrounding the character Iron Man’s long-standing topicalization of prosthetic as well as bio-engineered cybernetics are brought into focus. In this series, a number of devices establish first an unreliable narration after the pattern of the preceding Superior Spider-Man series (2013-2014) and then build upon its foundation a deep and complicated set 1 See Denisa Butnaru’s Introduction in this volume.


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of unreliable gazes engaged with the specifics of the cartoon image. To describe the contextualization of those gazes in a series of escalating social encounters and networks, which contrasts progressive cyborg inventions with various images of deformed or differently abled bodies, I finally recur to a reading of Bakhtin’s concepts of the carnivalesque body that recalls its distinction from posse and burlesque. This allows us to trace the entanglement of utopian and tragic genres in the multimodal framing of these unreliable body images.

1. Controlling the Cyborg Gaze Neil Harbisson is a British citizen. His passport notes the date and place of his birth—July 27, 1982, in Mataro—, and his sex; it depicts his signature and shows a photograph of his face. It is this picture that differs from the norm of the document: Above his scalp and coming down to his ears, an assortment of electronics is visible. It looks like a headset with earphones, cables, and an antenna. Without further knowledge, it is difficult to tell what precisely these instruments are and what purpose they serve. Their inclusion is at once the reason for the wide circulation of the only slightly redacted private document online (fig. 1)2: Figure 1

2 Here taken from Neil Harbisson, (07/2014). Neil Harbisson—Part 1: Rearranging the Senes of Color Sight and Sound (interview). In Munsell Color, Retrieved from neil-harbisson-cyborg-interview

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

Originally, the UK Passport Office had rejected a photograph including this gear; eventually, they accepted an image that recognizably showed both his face and the prosthetic additions. Originally colour-blind, Harbisson uses the setup to translate colour frequencies into sounds; while some of the exterior gear can be removed, the operative chip is now firmly affixed to his skull. Harbisson cites the authoritative acceptance of his official visage in 2004 as confirmation of having become ‘the world’s first cyborg’3 when a new sense emerged from the interaction of his biological organism and the antenna.4 A performance artist, Harbisson stages himself at once as an example of and an aesthetic exploration of the cyborg. The exact nature of his perception of colours and sounds is at the same time technologically more transparent and qualitatively farther removed from others’ introspection than the assumed unmodified norm as well as the different perception of colour-blind persons: Between the reproducible blueprint and the emergent ability to cope with the additional input without mistaking it for sound or colour alone, what Harbisson describes as the essence of his cyborg identity can be fully explained but never experienced. The distinction recurs to the difference between sound and colour over and over while continuously re-arranging their relationships: But my favourite colour is aubergine. It looks black but is actually violet or purple, and it sounds very high-pitched.5 That gulf is repeated in the modal separation of knowing that his perception differs from others’, while recognizing his difference by looking at the visible outside of the prostheses. Different representations in media thus take the place of the original modal transformation: In the outside visual appearance as well as the eloquent discourse that Harbisson presents in publications and public talks, and then again in the contested official passport photograph and similar struggles with authority, several more of which Harbisson has undergone and published; for instance, when the exterior antenna was damaged by police as Harbisson used his integrated camera to film a demonstration in Barcelona, Harbisson referred to this damage as physical aggression in his formal complaint, again seeking authoritative confirmation for the inclusion of the apparatus as part of his material body.6

3 Ibid. 4 Laura Serra, (01/2011). No som blancs ni negres, tots som taronges. In Ara, societat/No-blancs-negres-tots-taronges_0_411558847.html 5 Neil Harbisson, (02/2013). The man who hears colour. In BBC News, magazine-16681630 6 Ibid.



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In this sense, Harisson’s body image as a purported cyborg draws on tensions between the sensibility towards an imaginary encounter of his different subjective identity, and the symbolic development of the meanings that we might assign to encounters of that kind: In terms of the immediate visibility of his body, the image of the visual outline of his head with the antenna receives a new quality when symbolically represented in the official passport photograph. For this understanding of the symbolic, one might cite a Lacanian perspective by which the unattainable qualia of Harbisson’s perceptions constitute a real that is lost and replaced by the asymmetry of the purported depiction of his bodily person and the symbolic discourse concerning his addressable identity. The gaze that meets his is then integral to each of these three differing orders—the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic.7 The ambiguous transparency of the augmentation, completely explicable as prosthetic technology and yet irrevocably individual as incommensurate perception, contrasts the authority of merely accurate representation to the authority of an accepted specific gaze in the applied and adapted regulations of the governmentally controlled media. Appropriating that control, the subjection as a documented individual and desubjection as an instigator of a change to the rules of documentation underscores an ultimately utopian imagination of the cyborg in which both the symbolic regulation and the technological cybernetics remain promises of future possibilities materialised but not completely encompassed by current reality. This approach to a possible faction of the cyborg from a set of factual events may be carefully compared to the realistic intention inscribed into Science Fiction as it approaches faction from the other, fictional side. Futuristic imaginations of the cyborg are, of course, anything but new.8 One of the perhaps recently most recognized genre versions of the cyborg is Marvel’s superhero Iron Man, billionaire and weapons manufacturer Tony Stark in a multi-functional exoskeleton of his own making— which, pertinently, is connected to Tony’s specific identity because it intersects with implants in his body that make it impossible for others to use the suit, but also impossible for Tony to survive without this technology. In his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963,9 the representation of his body fully enclosed in metal is immediately configured as an image that hides the story: “Who? … Who?... WHO?” we read in a sequence of three smaller panels, as disembodied hands grab the boots, the torso, the gloves in which the protagonist clads himself. The larger macropanel showing the whole suit—and thus no more body parts, not even the hands, uncov7 Jaques Lacan, (1986). Le Séminaire. Livre XI (p. 35-42). Paris Ed. du Seuil. 8 Brian M. Stableford, & David Langford, (2018/08/11). Cyborgs. In John Clute et. Al (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Gollancz., (Cit. Sept. 2016) 9 Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Don Heck (1963). Iron Man is Born! In Tales of Suspense Vol. 39. New York: Marvel Comics.

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

ered—is accompanied by a boast that is at once a question: “Who? Or what, is the newest, most breath-taking, most sensational super hero of all…?” In this and hundreds of other issues that would follow, comic books and stories dealing with Iron Man will open on a large presentation of the prosthetically covered body, presenting and thus both revealing and concealing the eponymous character. The general genre topos of the secret identity takes a specific turn as the visual depiction of Iron Man not only conceals his civil identity, but also keeps the nature of his superhero existence as mystery to be continuously solved in each plot. Iron Man sometimes uses these devices to foreground questions about cyborg technology. However, it is worth noting that as the series is clearly genre science fiction, the genuine investigative futurology of what Heinlein described as “Speculative Fiction” plays no obligatory part: 10 The stories often fall more squarely in what he would call “fantasy fiction”, fusing the conventions of the SF genre with recursions to chivalric notions of the armed hero and ultimately subjecting both to patterns of mainstream superhero storytelling. Heinlein’s “realistic future-science” of serious speculation—another version of what we might consider ‘faction’—re-emerges erratically in the series and at odd intervals. One notable such return to ‘hard SF’ happens in the Extremis storyline that relaunched the series in 2005.11 The eponymous Extremis technology incorporates a new perspective on cybernetics that foregrounds bio-engineering. Translating one of the more substantial shifts in the concept of the cyborg to the pages of the ongoing continuity, the series originally pitches the previous metal prosthetics of Iron Man, mostly referred to as ‘cybernetic’ on the page, against the different, dangerous body modifications of Extremis that rewrite cellular structures and their DNA. While the first story does see Tony Stark incorporating the same technology into his own suit and transforming his own set of superhuman abilities accordingly, future appearances of Extremis usually return opposing the removable exterior ‘cybernetic’ armour of the protagonist to a more sinister, corruptive, and strikingly invisible intervention into the body proper by ‘bio-engineering’. Hence, two versions of one concept in the mainstream faction dealing with the cyborg do battle within the comic. For each faction, their opposition is cast through a different employment of issues of invisibility whereas Iron Man’s exoskeleton conceals his identity and reveals his augmentation while being worn, allowing his superhero identity to remain secret while in civilian clothing, the irremovable and often invisible cellular transformation of the inventors and vic10 Robert A. Heinlein, (1959). Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues. In Basil Davenport, & Robert A. Heinlein (Eds.). The Science Fiction Novel: Imagination and Social Criticism. Chicago: Advent. 11 Warren Ellis, & Adi Granov (2006). The Invincible Iron Man. Extremis (6 issue). New York: Marvel Comics.



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tims of Extremis are ever presented as suspect, their changes as unintelligible to observers and authorities as their ultimate consequences are to the modified humans themselves. The exoskeleton rarely surprises its wearer; the persons undergoing Extremis constantly endanger others and themselves with unexpected results. The gaze that meets these depictions is one that marvels at a mask in one case, but distrusts the naked shape of a seemingly innocuous human in the other; a question of mistaken identity on the one hand faces a general paranoid gaze on the other. I want to focus here on a recent short series among Iron Man comics that fully develops the aesthetic pictorial choices that go with these pictorial negotiations of cyborg visibility by combining them with further narrative and artistic devices underscoring a network of general unreliability. Figure 2

Superior Iron Man (2014-2015)12 returns to the idea of Tony Stark employing Extremis in his own body, but adds a varied set of additional plot and surface elements that contribute to his unreliability as he does so. Running for only nine monthly 12 Tom Taylor, & Yildiray Cinar et al., (2014; 2015). Superior Iron Man (9 issues). New York: Marvel Comics.

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

issues, the story sees a Tony corrupted by a previous malicious mind control that has since ceased, but left him with a shift in personality traits: a hubris, ruthlessness, and narcissism that had always been part of the character’s portrayal, as well as a tendency to chemical addiction previously explored through Tony’s alcoholism, are left in greater control of his actions than before. On the diegetic level, the vague description of this effect renders it impossible to separate the ‘superior’ version’s actions from the original fictitious person: We know both that his actions are not quite his own, and yet that all of their motivations nevertheless stem from Tony. On the pictorial level, that uncertainty is directly reconnected to the topicalization of cybernetics and bio-engineering as an artificial genre duplication of the concept of the cyborg. The initial presentation of Tony on the first cover makes this clear: His new armour seemingly leaves the face visible (fig. 2), but the storyline as well as the use of Extremis means we cannot trust that face. Even the naked biological surface of the body might conceal transformations and modifications within, and the personality of the character is essentially treacherous. The required paranoid gaze is signalled in the series’ title: The ‘Superior’ moniker refers to a change in several concurrent and recent Marvel comics lines, most famously to that of the Superior Spider-Man, which had introduced many of the storytelling techniques repeated but subverted in Superior Iron Man. It is worth returning to the setup employed in this earlier series, not merely because Superior Iron Man is intended to be read in its direct context, but because the paranoia of the gaze described here is turned into a narrative design, an unreliable gaze connected to the visual storytelling involving unreliable narration on several levels. The different unreliabilities employed there and leaving its traces in its pictorial surface can highlight in distinction the specifics of the paranoid gaze that strains to control the visually unreliable body image of the cyborg.

2. Unreliable Comics Narrative The main diegetic and narrative conceits of Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man (20132014)13 were introduced and encapsulated in issue #698 of the main series Amazing Spider-Man late in 2012.14 The issue presents a classical decidable unreliable narration such that the original reading of the story presents a version of events that breaks down near the end, and an actual or imagined re-reading reinterprets 13 Dan Slott et al., (2013; 2014). The Superior Spider-Man (35 issue). New York: Marvel Comics. And Christopher Yost, Paolo Rivera, & Marco Checchetto, (2014). Superior Spider-Man Team-Up (12 issue). New York: Marvel Comics. 14 Dan Slott, & Richard Elson, (2012). Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 698. New York: Marvel Comics.



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all contents such that the new, valid version remains plausible. The art of the device centres around the impression of the reader that they have been cheated but cheated fairly; that is, all of the elements of the storytelling must still make sense under the new interpretation. The duplicity in this issue can be fixated once more by the doubled gaze with which we must regard each picture of Spider-Man, beginning with an establishing splash page that opens the main story after a short prelude. We see Spider-Man in a classic pose, swinging above and against a beautifully twilit Manhattan skyline (fig. 3).15 Text captions present an interior narrating monologue: My name is Peter Parker. I’m the amazing Spider-Man. Figure 3

15 Ibid., p. 7.

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

It is at first the text rather than the image that signals suspicion in this issue. The deception is as follows: one of Spider-Man’s arch enemies, Doctor Otto Octavius, has taken over Peter Parker’s, the amazing Spider-Man’s, body, investing Peter with Otto’s mind and trapping Peter’s own mind in the aging mad scientist’s dying body. The nefarious metempsychosis has taken place sometime before this issue begins; but the reader will only find out about it on its very last pages, when Otto-in-Peter visits the dying Peter-in-Otto and reveals to him and in doing so to the reader what has happened. Once accepted, this plot obviously renders each body, and specifically that of the main character, suspect when viewed from the outside. Diegetically, we at first seem to be dealing with a case of under-reporting in Phelan’s typology of unreliable narrations16. It is not untrue that a body that looks like the one depicted on this page is moving across Manhattan; and the interior monologue of that person may indeed be represented as it is in the caption. The correct interpretation, never explicitly given on the page, must however shift: rather than Peter Parker reminding us or himself of the general premise of the series, we now understand that the sentence is Otto Octavius congratulating himself on having secured for himself both the civil and the superhero identity of his enemy. This continues throughout several further elements of Otto-in-Peter’s monologues and dialogues. That opening speech ends on another page with the words: “Still sounds wrong.”, and several other quotations take on a suitably unreliable double meaning: […] what’s the point of being Spider-Man […] ? (p. 8) For a poor boy from Queens, who always wanted to be a scientist [which describes Peter, but not the much more successful scientist Otto], this is definitely a dream job. (p. 13) Me, of all people, on the world’s most renowned super hero team. (p. 17) In several instances, the second, valid interpretation has to connect the words to the gaze of people around the protagonist, on whose gaze he is commenting: Really? I leap in and you say, “Spider-Man”? (p. 9.) However, a closer look at the interaction between the unreliable captions and the unreliable pictorial level shows that the common understanding of under-reporting does not quite capture the central mechanism that deceives the reader. The plausibility of attributing the very opening line to Otto’s as easily as to Peter’s interior monologue is derived from a much more basic ambivalence towards nar16 James Phelan, (2005). Living to tell about it: A rhetoric and ethics of character narration, (pp. 34-53). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.



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ration in comics as a whole. Examined closely, it makes not merely as much but considerably more sense for Otto to remind himself or to enjoy the thought of who he is than for Peter to think about his name and identity. In the original attribution to Peter, we accept the line less as an informative insight into his psyche, but as an established means of character narration. We understand it as a conventional means of story-telling, rather than as a sensible element of the diegetic world. In this sense, the voice which we first presume to see represented in this text is an artifact of a historical development of transmedia narrative.17 Its conception, then, cannot be treated in the sense of a merely abstract semiotic possibility; rather, its semiotics are thoroughly historically grounded in the times and contexts in which this form first developed. It draws its legitimacy from tropes of first-person-narration in novels, and its immediacy from the fact that comics narrative needs no written narrator, but accepts it as a parallel to the convention of other media, including those novels, if it appears on the page. Ascribed to Peter, the caption on that first splash page seems to indicate that Peter serves as a character narrator; the lingual representation of his thoughts might contain elements that can hardly be motivated by his situational thought processes in the elements of the histoire, but make much more sense as mediating functions rendering the discours of the comic narration intelligible.18 The second, eventually validated interpretation is accepted as a fair deceit not least because it renders the communicative structure much closer to the more straightforward, elegant form of comic narration, where the immediate level of discourse consists of the sequence of panels and all language is subjected to and integrated within the depicted scenes. One might argue whether this means that there is no narrator in such a more simple comics narration,19 in which transmedia affordances such as the optional additional storyteller play a lesser part; or whether that essential narrator has to be understood

17 I can only cover this here to the extent that it illuminates the similar and different use of these devices in the cyborg representation of Superior Iron Man. For a more detailed development of this argument, see Stephan Packard, (08/2013). Superior Unreliability: Thoughts on Narrators in Comics on the Occasion of Spider-Man 2012/2013. In. Comics Forum, https://comicsforum. org/2013/08/12/superior-unreliability-thoughts-on-narrators-in-comics-on-the-occasion-ofspider-man-201213-by-stephan-packard and Stephen Packard, (2014). Wie narrativ sind Comics? Aspekte historischer Transmedialität. In Susanne Hochreiter, & Ursula Klingenböck (Eds.). Bild ist Text ist Bild. Narration und Ästhetik in der Graphic Novel (pp. 97-119). Bielefeld: transcript. 18 Gérard Genette, (2007). Discours du récit (pp. 13-20). Paris: Seuil. 19 On the use of lingual and/or visual narratorial instances in comics see Jan-Noel Thon, (2013). Who’s telling the Tale? Authors and Narrators in Graphic Narrative. In Jan-Noël Thon, & Daniel Stein (Eds.). From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels: Contributions to the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative (pp. 67-101). Berlin: De Gruyter.

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as a merely visual but necessary instance, as opposed to a facultative lingual narrator that may appear in addition to the visual presentation or not.20 In either case, it is this network of shifting narrative functions, which moves from a comic with a lingual character narrator to a simpler structure with a purely visual mode of storytelling, to which lingual elements are subjected, that gives rise to the suspicious gaze with which every representation of bodies has to be viewed beginning with that splash page of what turned out to be Otto-in-Peter. For be it by telling or showing, it is only in the lingual representation of interiors that the swapped minds of the two characters can become apparent. The deceit then reveals and rests upon the more general aesthetic reality in mainstream comics narration that a typical unreliability in such comics concerns the questionable attribution of utterances to one or more facultative lingual narrators, whose special and uncertain role and function are historically grounded in the transmedia convergence of expectations for the constructed communication of comics narrative. Crucially, managing this unreliability leaves traces in the diegetic world. The metaphysics of that storyworld, specifically, tends to accept a distinction between visible corporeal and invisible, spiritual narrative domains, which leaves the visual depictions of mere bodies wanting. That is, what is real and unreal, material and immaterial in the world of Marvel’s superhero comics seems to develop exactly along the lines of its realisation in the comic medium, with visible bodies left in need of spiritual, often lingual, distinction as to the status of their soul or psyche. As Superior Iron Man picks up and transcends this elegant construction, it begins to explore which other unreliabilities, possibly likewise grounded in the specific historical situation among transmedia shifts, may concern more properly the visual mode of storytelling in comics, and what traces those unreliabilities leave in the diegetic world. As approaches towards a bi-directionally permeated faction of the concept of the cyborg, the transmedia situation of such storytelling may relate to the situation of the strained controlling gaze with which we encounter cyborgs in factual depictions of Harbisson no less than in fictional imagery of Iron Man. The traces these devices of unreliable storytelling leave in the diegetic world may then also affect factual states and materialize in the real world, as Butnaru suggests21. In Superior Iron Man the central unreliabilities are of a different kind than in Superior Spider-Man. The unreliability of its pictures cannot ultimately be resolved. Rather than presenting two interpretations one after another and clearly validating the latter at the former’s expense, the unreliability in this series is unresolv20 As developed for movie narratology by Markus Kuhn: Filmnarratologie, Berlin 2013; Kuhn distinguishes an obligatory visual and a facultative lingual narratorial instance. 21 See the Introduction of this volume.



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able. There never comes a point at which we are quite sure what is happening in the story world; and perhaps more importantly, even where we eventually have a good idea of actual events and narrative structures, we still do not necessarily know what they looked like, leaving the pictorial surface of these comics unreliable even where the diegesis can be reconstructed. For on the immediate diegetic level, almost everything that Tony does in Superior Iron Man contributes to the unreliability of the outside appearance of human bodies. One of his main schemes concerns selling a new version of Extremis that renders the user more healthy, strong, and beautiful. Several scenes show Tony himself under his new drug’s inf luence, seemingly strutting with health among gorgeous men and especially women with perfect bodies in elegant poses. Doubt sets in on three levels. First, Extremis, at first delivered at no cost, deactivates if users do not purchase an outrageously expensive daily continuance. Where its effects are aborted, the user is left crestfallen, weak, and seems to deteriorate physically. Taking cues from conventional drug abuse narratives, the narrowing connection of bio-engineering technology and capitalist exploitation takes up a line of questioning proper to genuine speculative fiction exploring future scenarios for cyborg innovation. But secondly, that allusion to mind-altering drugs calls into question what the readers saw in the pictures both of the healthy and the ailing users. Could the gaze have been subjective? Can we trust Tony’s evaluation of his own body and of the bodies around him, riddled as he is with the narcissism and hubris that undermine his character? Given two depictions of many of the user’s bodies, under Extremis and after its use, should we assume that each spasmodic muscle, dirtied wrinkle, and hint of obesity in the latter picture is an objective view of their bodies? This signifies a second level of doubt, one that calls into question the characters’ perception and no less the readers’ evaluation. If the central actor and antagonist of the series prevails, we cannot trust any depiction of bodies throughout the comic; we are left with an ever unquiet paranoid gaze and an unreliability that continues without resolution. But just as Amazing Spider-Man #698 derived the plausibility of its second interpretation from its closer reliance to comics aesthetics as opposed to transmedia affordances of general narrative conventions, that unresolved appearance of the seemingly visually represented characters connects to a basic device in comics, turned here into a ref lection of the gaze on the cyborg. In his seminal Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud introduces a new concept of the cartoon.22 In his use, the word describes the reduced and hyperbolic transformation of faces, bodies, and other objects of representation in the vari22 Scott McCloud, (1994). Understanding Comics. 2nd ed. New York: Harper Perennial., esp. Ch. 2. See also Stephen Packard, (2006). Anatomie des Comics. Psychosemiotische Medienanalyse. Göttingen: Wallstein., esp. Ch. 4.

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

ous drawing styles employed in most comics alongside caricature, animation, and computer games. Removed from a realism defined by our assimilation of photography as the image of the real, and close to but not identical to an abstract symbol of human physiology as presented by a simple smiley, the cartoon as presented by McCloud achieves greater relatability and a more direct correspondence to the body images involved in the perceptions of social interaction by reducing many unrelated features. But more than a mere mode of depiction, cartoons in comics can inf luence the acceptable limits of the diegetic world:23 The fungible body images of the actors in funny strips motivate the ease with which their bodies may be harmed and recover, and the extremes of superhero depiction allow us to believe their superhuman feats more readily. In the previous splash page of Spider-Man, the exaggerated elegance and dynamic of the body contributes to the acceptability of the fantasy by which he f loats above the city as he swings from one incredibly thin string of his famous webbing to another. The impossibility of discerning the visual diegetic appearance of a cartoonish character from its pictorial presentation is put to specific use in Superior Iron Man. In comics, while the main mode of mediation is showing the reader the elements of the story, they never find out what they look like; showing happens without seeing, as the gaze focuses on other aspects of the information conveyed. In this case, the gaze is rendered inescapably paranoid. Once we have realised that we do not know how beautiful the users are under Extremis, nor how destitute their bodies become when Extremis wears off, we are condemned to mistrust all that we see. That mistrust is rewarded over and over in the storyline, as several characters undergo controlled and uncontrolled metamorphoses as exoskeletons repeatedly hide other characters than seem to inhabit them at first and as they sometimes prove to be empty, driven by an inhuman computer program or the echo of a previous wearer’s mind. But most strikingly, the doubt pertains to Tony himself. Since we are often told that he has employed Extremis in far-reaching ways to his own body but are never given a detailed description of the effects, it is the pictures of his body that we may trust least of all. The naked face among his new body armour, central to the first issue’s cover, thus by no means reveals the person but is the central object of the paranoid gaze. That same paranoia eventually settles in in several other characters as well, as they realise they cannot trust their senses around Tony. But a final and third level of doubt emerges when Tony is confronted socially not by beneficiaries or victims of his bio-engineered enhancements, but by differently abled and disabled persons. A menagerie of diminished, altered, deformed bodies with disfigured faces

23 Martin Schüwer, (2008). Wie Comics erzählen. Grundriss einer intermedialen Erzähltheorie der grafischen Literatur. Trier: WVT., esp. Introduction and Ch. 1.



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and limited sense and competences populates the series and mostly finds itself allied against Tony in the end. One of the most striking characters of this kind is Matt Murdock, another superhero with the secret identity of Daredevil. Murdock is blind. As the outward appearance of the transformed bodies around and within Tony cannot distract him, it is he who discovers that this version of Extremis, sold implausibly as a smartphone app, is indeed bio-engineering rather than a feat of software. The app, he realises, merely sends out a barely audible signal when paid for and activated; the actual change is driven by viruses with which Tony has infected the whole city and perhaps nation, waiting for the signal to rewrite their hosts’ bodies for a day at a time. In a deeply unsettling and viciously humiliating sequence, Tony manages to overpower the blind man by using Extremis to return to him the power to see; once rendered healthy as defined by a physical norm, his resistance to Tony’s machinations is undermined. In a similar way, a disfigured teenager can only extract himself from Tony’s nefarious inf luence if he accepts that his disfigurement will then remain untreated; and a heavily restricted creature created by the software memories of Tony’s own mind in one of his old exoskeletons has to accept the severe limitations of its existence or be turned into a tool for Tony’s plans. So the narrative unreliability in Superior Iron Man concerns not only the communicative structure defining the narrator, as in the central device used in Superior Spider-Man; rather, it focuses on the ambiguities of the visual presentation. However, the specific historical moment in transmedia shifts remains decisive. It is only because we might as soon expect pictorial media to be photographically reliable, because we are prepared to accept as natural a purely hypothetical and artificial identity between the visuality of the pictorial discours and the signified bodies within the histoire that the invisibility of the visually represented story elements can deceive and unsettle us. The diegetic invisibility of the visuality of the cartoon in the comics narrative entertains a historically grounded tension towards the expectation for visibility and for seen content. In distinction to speech, body images are interrogated as to the allegedly actually given body. We at once think to recognize the seen by its appearance, and know that the image in the genre narrative must be regarded as an improper sign. Superior Iron Man applies that unreliability to investigate the unease with which the gaze tries and fails to control the image of the cyborg body. By foregrounding an opposition between such cyborgs as Tony creates and differently deviant bodies of disfigurement and disability, however, the series suggests one specific answer to the questions surrounding cyborg innovations: a triumph of infirm over augmented bodies, which not least entails a reliable perception on the part of infirmity. Deviant bodies, I argue, are in this fiction divided not mainly into healthy and unhealthy, modified and unmodified, but into the carnivalesque and the tragic.

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

3. Carnival The aff luence of deviant bodies in the pages of Superior Iron Man easily recalls current readings of Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque. Not unadjacent to Rabelais’ Gargantua or Pantagruel, the deformed teenager, the limping shell of an exoskeleton, the brightly dressed blind man, and several others all share the semantic distance established between them and the doubled cybernetic and bio-engineered cyborg of Iron Man, and the ambivalence by which their deviance engenders both inferiorities and superiorities. More importantly yet, the story focuses on the vastly different social and interactive attitudes embodied and enacted by their cartoons as opposed to the strictly hierarchical appearance of Tony Stark, a perfected body among his perfected clients. Beyond the application of aesthetic specialties of the comics in the construction of the paranoid, tenuously controlling gaze that fixates the ambiguous and suspect body of the cyborg, the series here employs a deft play on the concurrence of several generic traditions to formulate a final commentary on current bio-engineering imaginations that directly addresses issues of speculative fiction and in its utopian bent entertains brief but striking forays into the factually futurologist use of fiction, that faction most proper to ‘hard’ science fiction. This makes a return to Bakhtin’s concepts especially fruitful, as his introduction of the concept of the literary carnivalesque in its original argument concerns precisely the issue of genres as preserved and modified by tradition and recombined in new work that are at stake here. In the fifth chapter of Rabelais and his World,24 Bakhtin returns to the grotesque body images he had previously described within the feasts of Rabelais’ tales—an argument that, departing from written narrative, always already concerns images rather than specific pictures and follows the transmedia traditions involved in the development of genres. One of the main points of this development, perhaps now too often overlooked, is a stark contrast between the grotesque of folklore and the satire of modernity. For Bakthin, most accounts of the grotesque follow a too narrowly modern insistence on purely derogative hyperbole and exaggeration, in which the intention with which deviant body depictions are presented is purely negative. In contrast to this critique of at first fictional characters’ features which might then translate into real social or political criticism in factual statements, Bakhtin emphasizes a broader tendency in grotesque folklore to engage instead in a critique of a certain regime of life. That critique holds on to a true ambivalence, whereas the reduced later devolutions of the concept present a less differentiated, unmixed negativity. As the collectively experienced carnival reverses social hierarchies, it celebrates rather than denigrates not only deviance but the triumph 24 Mikhail Bakhtin, (1968). Rabelais and his World, (Hélène Iswolsky, Trans.). Cambridge Mass: MIT.



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of exaggerated life. In the spirit of a history of laughter, Bakhtin presents that attitude as at first quite foreign to any modern readership; it is only in specific contexts that similar devices might be rediscovered in works from modern times. By recasting the posse, the burlesque, and the grotesque in this sense, Bakhtin develops three perspectives on a folkloristic carnivalesque based on collective experiences; and as each involves a recasting, they suggest possible transformations as folklore and modernity may confront one another in the dialogic movement of traditions in literary works. The opposition between an older and newer concept of the cyborg, here embodied as ‘cybernetic’ versus ‘bio-engineered’, opens a field in which these older three generic positions re-emerge. For the posse, Bakhtin emphasizes the ultimate success of a differently abled individual beyond the previous failure devised by that difference. In his example, the stutterer in posse does not ultimately fail to speak but upon receiving a blow to the lower body, in an exuberant re-enactment of parturition, finally does give birth to the blocked word, his triumph at once an enactment of exaggerated biological fantasy. For burlesque, Bakhtin opposes the view that emphasizing the bodily function of tragic heroes and powerful personages merely denigrates them. Instead, he sees the intention of these heroes recovered by the regeneration of their bodies’ vivacity, even as the individual characters are brought low. In grotesque, Bakhtin points out that rather than merely positing impossible and thus failing or disfigured biological acts— such as the impregnation of a virgin, purportedly safely hosted in a monastery, by the mere touch of the shadow of the bell tower—, these images celebrate the triumph of biology in those scenarios, in that instance, not merely criticizing priests that fail at celibacy, but affirming that celibacy itself fails. The dissatisfaction with an existent regime then turns into the satisfaction of a triumphant physiological and biological generation of another. Such confirmation of the newly generated pervades Superior Iron Man, but it is never applied to the innovation of the cyborg. Its inf luence is purely negative and reductive, removing illnesses and rendering immaculate beautiful bodies that are left empty and deprived when the effects of Extremis wear out; its faces subject to the paranoid gaze reveal nothing of the life, which here may entail character and biology, of the individual gazed upon. It is quite different for the blind man whose posse-like limitation allows him to perceive the truth behind Extremis and specifically to recognize its biological component. It is equally different for the hollowed shell of a previous Iron Man suit, who even in the act of being brought low celebrates the endurance of the barely understood spark of life that remains with him. It is most of all different with the genuinely and traditionally grotesque visage of a character called ‘Teen Abomination’, whose cartoonish appearance, while rejected by Tony and at first by himself, eventually f lourishes in the cartoonish vivacity of the comic book page in which we are never sure whether we can believe

Gazing Upon the Cyborg as An Unreliable Cartoon

the visual plausibility of what we see but nevertheless understand the triumph of the grotesque creature. In true carnivalesque fashion, the central motif of these triumphs is the heterogeneous collective of the differently abled bodies that ally against Tony Stark and with one another. It is in contrast to this genre motif that Tony experiences a very different generic end: technically triumphant, having defended his new empire against all of the carnival’s misformed creatures, he ends up alone in a precisely tragic sense, a Creon who has outlived his enemies. In an unsettlingly short finale, Tony returns from a won battle to find that losing the hierarchical position in the collective yet leaves him beaten. As the final tiny three panels show his cybernetically and bio-engineered body on a throne-like seat slipping into darkness, his main antagonist’s, former lover Pepper Potts’s, monologue insists on an almost interminably repetitive description of that reversal: they will all know your imperfections, Tony. You won‘t be their messiah anymore. Whatever you do from now on, you will do it without admiration. Without those who once respected you. You will do it without friends. You might still manage to force your arrogant vision onto the world. But you will do so broken. Unloved… and completely alone. Opposed to the much larger previous panels depicting the miscellaneous assorted antagonists, the paranoid gaze here turns away from the cybernetic body image, giving up the original strife for controlling the attended image. It is perhaps in eschewing the purely modern and satirical option of conveying such a message, which could only deny the controlling gaze upon the cyborg by debasing and possibly implausibly seeing brought low the centre of its power, that the series achieves its more finely differentiated evaluation. Rather than arguing against the cyborg, it ultimately argues against the coupling of its body image with a controlling gaze. In that sense, the comparison to factual imagery of cyborgs in popular discourse, such as the self-declared example of Neil Harbisson, might be instructive. While this comic makes a specific political point in terms of speculative fiction and ultimately culminates in a much more strident evaluation of the concrete characters for this generic fiction, the larger combination of pictorial and broader visual aesthetics of the unreliability afforded by comics storytelling and cartooning, and of the mobilization of a rivalry among satirical and grotesque genres, affords it a negotiation of the visuality of the cyborg in its current contested state.



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References Bakhtin, Mikhail (1968). Rabelais and his World, (Hélène Iswolsky, Trans.). Cambridge Mass: MIT. Ellis, Warren & Granov, Adi (2005-2006). The Invincible Iron Man. Extremis. New York: Marvel Comics. Genette, Gérard (2007). Discours du récit. Paris: Seuil. Harbisson, Neil (02/2013). The man who hears colour. In BBC News, http://www. (accessed 09/2016). Harbisson, Neil (2014). Neil Harbisson—Part 1: Rearranging the Senes of Color Sight and Sound” (interview). In Munsell Color, neil-harbisson-cyborg-interview accessed on 09/2016. Heinlein, Robert A. (1959). Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues. In: Basil Davenport (ed.) The Science Fiction Novel: Imagination and Social Criticism. Chicago: Advent. Lacan, Jaques (1986). Le Séminaire. Livre XI. Paris Ed. du Seuil. Lee, Stan, Lieber, Larry, & Heck, Don (1963). Iron Man is Born! In Tales of Suspense. Issue 39. New York: Marvel Comics. McCloud, Scott (1994). Understanding Comics. 2nd ed. New York: Harper Perennial. Packard, Stephen (2006). Anatomie des Comics. Psychosemiotische Medienanalyse. Göttingen: Wallstein. Packard, Stephen (08/2013) Superior Unreliability: Thoughts on Narrators in Comics on the Occasion of Spider-Man 2012/2013. In Comics Forum, Retrieved from rators-in-comics-on-the-occasion-of-spider-man-201213-by-stephan-packard (accessed 09/2016). Packard, Stephen (2014). Wie narrativ sind Comics? Aspekte historischer Transmedialität. In Susanne Hochreiter, & Ursula Klingenböck (Eds.). Bild ist Text ist Bild. Narration und Ästhetik in der Graphic Novel (pp. 97-119). Bielefeld: transcript. Phelan, James (2005). Living to tell about it: A rhetoric and ethics of character narration. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Rivera, Paolo & Marco Checchetto (2014). Superior Spider-Man Team-Up (12 issue). New York: Marvel Comics. Schüwer, Martin (2008). Wie Comics erzählen. Grundriss einer intermedialen Erzähltheorie der grafischen Literatur. Trier: WVT. Serra, Laura (2011). »No som blancs ni negres, tots som taronges.« In Ara, Retrieved from 411558847.html (accessed 09/2016). Slott, Dan & Elson, Richard (2012). Amazing Spider-Man 698. New York: Marvel Comics.

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Slott, Dan et al. (2014). The Superior Spider-Man (35 issues). New York: Marvel Comics. Stableford, Brian M. & Langford, David (2018/08/11). Cyborgs. In John Clute et. al (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Gollancz., http://www.sf-en (accessed 05/03/2019). Taylor, Tom & Cinar, Yildiray, (2015). Superior Iron Man (9 issues). New York: Marvel Comics. Thon, Jan-Noel (2013). Who’s telling the Tale? Authors and Narrators in Graphic Narrative. In Jan-Noël Thon, & Daniel Stein (Eds.). From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels: Contributions to the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative (pp. 67-101). Berlin: De Gruyter.


Robots which draw. How BioArt rethinks Body and Hybridity Bianca Westermann Whenever our concept of technology changes, it has major implications for the way in which technology is able to inf luence questions such as what it means to be human or how we conceptualize the body. As of now, biotechnological art proves to be a promising field to retrace how the hybridity between the biological and the technological is mediated nowadays. Despite controversies about the conceptualization1 and labelling of this field—Bio Art2 being one option among others—the project of founding art on living tissues and biotechnological methods brings together art with science, as well as life sciences with techno-science. These artworks are material and conceptual hybrids providing a hands-on approach to current (bio-)political and philosophical questions. Acting on the assumption that cultural concepts of body and technology constantly reshape each other, a bio-robotic-art-project—SymbioticA’s series Fish & Chips, MEART and Silent Barrage—that playfully explores the concept of a “geographically detached”3 body in relation to artificial creativity (MEART) as well as “the nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction” (Silent Barrage)4 is a promising starting point to rethink the interdependencies between the biological and the technological, art and media, the body and its current social implications nowadays. Being interested in how hybridity is presently conceptualized, my leading assumption is that a careful analysis of these artworks allows for a deeper understanding of contemporary notions of hybridity than current theoretical approaches might offer. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of SymbioticA’s bio-robotic project series is essential to un1 See Jens Hauser, (2014). Biotechnologie als Medialität. Strategien Organischer Medienkunst (Dissertation). Bochum: Ruhr-Universität Bochum., as well as Jens Hauser in Magdalena Leiter (2015/06/02) Es gibt keine BioArt! Retrieved from 2 The term was first used by Eduoardo Kac in 1997, Retrieved from genicindex.html 3 Retrieved from 4 Retrieved from


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derstand their explicit and implicit notions of hybridity. Taking into account the theories on new materialism by Donna J. Haraway and Karen Barad, as well as Andreas Reckwitz’ approach on culture and the politics of identity, draws attention to the mutual reshaping of these bio-robotic artworks and their audience. MEART, the second of the above-mentioned bio-robotic art project series, was first presented in 2002. The drawing robot has sketched portraits of its audience (2002-2004) and copied Malevich’s famous Black Square (2004).5 But what makes it pertinent to be discussed is that this robot is a “semi-living artist”6: “MEART is a bio-cybernetical, geographically detached artist. Its brain is housed in the Potter labs (Atlanta) and its body (Drawing Arm) is located in New York [or anywhere around the world as long as a connection via internet is possible, B.W.].”7 The project is a collaboration between the Perth-based SymbioticA Research Group8, which describes itself as “an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning, critique and hands-on engagement with the life sciences”9 and Prof. Steve M. Potter’s Neuroengineering Lab10 at Georgia Institute of Technology. MEART’s geographically detached body consists of a rat’s embryonic cortical neurons, which are cultivated over a Multi Electrode Array (MEA) with 60 electrodes, a video camera and two robotic arms. The video camera can be placed anywhere around the world to take a picture. A computer program converts the picture taken by this camera into monochrome and downscales it to 60 pixels, creating a so called “simulation map”11, with each pixel corresponding to an electrode of the array. This map is then transferred to the cybernetic neural network in Atlanta, where it controls the electrodes of the MEA to inf luence the activity of the neurons grown on it. The induced signal output of this cybernetic neural network is then again interpreted by a computer program and used to operate two robotic arms, which are placed in the same room as the camera to draw a picture based on the information received. Given the transformation of the picture taken by the camera, the drawing will not show an exact copy of the original picture; rather, it will depict a similar pattern of brightness value. The process described here is not 5 Retrieved from and http: // 6 Retrieved from 7 Retrieved from 8 The members of SymbioticA Research Group are: Guy Ben-Ary, Phil Gamblen, Dr. Stuart Bunt, Ian Sweetman, and Oron Catts. SymbioticA Research Group, (2002). MEART—the semi living artist (AKA Fish & Chips) Stage 2. In Thomas Paul (Ed.), BEAP, Biennale of Electronic Art, 2002: The Exhibitions, (pp. 60-68). 9 Retrieved from SymbioticA have called themselves a “Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts” since 2008 (ibid). 10 Part of his staff are Douglas J. Bakkum, Thomas B. DeMarse, and Alexander C. Shkolnik. 11 Retrieved from

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a single event, but a process which incorporates perpetual feedback mechanisms with the video-camera being used to constantly compare the emerging drawing to the simulation map until the brightness pattern matches.12 MEART could easily be categorized as a closed-circuit installation, similar to Nam June Paik’s TV Buddah from 1974: With this famous installation, in which a meditative statue of Buddha watches itself on a TV-screen, Paik artistically investigated and demonstrated the mediality and temporality of the videotape. But in contrast to Paik’s work, SymbioticA’s MEART questions the mediality, spatiotemporality, and materiality of the (artificial) hybrid body.

1. Bio-Artificial Creativity The new and provocative feature of MEART is its bio-cybernetic brain13 that allows SymbioticA to advance literally to the center of the living (and possibly thinking) body. Although one could argue that the two-dimensional design of the neurochip is still rudimentary compared to the complexity of the human brain, SymbioticA’s choice to qualify this biotechnological neural-network as ‘bio-cybernetic’ is to the point, as the reference to the concept of the cyborg emphasizes how fact and fiction intertwine in MEART. The attraction of the concept of the cyborg is based on its formative dimension of identity politics: As a figure of and on the threshold, cyborgs gain their cultural desirability through their potential to deny any definite answer to the question of whether a cyborg is a human being or technology.14 While only fictional cyborg figures are able to raise this ambivalence to its full extent,15 MEART’s hybrid design accentuates central characteristics of a cyborg: 12 Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr, (2007). Semi-Living Art. In Eduardo Kac (Ed.), Signs of Life. Bio Art and Beyond, (pp. 231-248). Cambridge: MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.fishandchips.uwa., Douglas J. Bakkum, Alexander C. Shkolnik, Guy C. BenAry, Phil Gamblen, Thomas B. DeMarse, & Steve M. Potter, (2004). Removing the ‘A’ from AI: Embodied Cultured Networks. In Luc Steels, & Rolf Pfeiffer (Eds.), Proceedings of the Dagstuhl Conference on Embodied Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.fishandchips.uwa. 13 This is not the first time a rat has become a cyborg. According to Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, who coined the term ‘cyborg’, the first cyborg was a rat with an osmotic pump. Cf. Clynes, Manfred E. Clynes, & Nathan S. Kline, (1960/1995). Cyborgs and Space. In Chris Hables Gray et al. (Eds.). The Cyborg Handbook, (pp. 29-33). London: Routledge. 14 Bianca Westermann, (2012). Anthropomorphe Maschinen: Grenzgänge zwischen Biologie und Technik seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, (pp. 225-270). München: Wilhelm Fink. 15 Bianca Westermann, (2017). Ist der Cyborg in der Realität angekommen? Mobile Medien und Mensch-Maschinen als Elemente des Alltags. In Marie-Hélène Adam, Szilivia Gellai, & Julia Knifka (Eds.), Technisierte Lebenswelt: Über den Prozess der Figuration von Mensch und Technik, (pp. 159-172). Bielefeld: transcript.



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Looking at the bio-cybernetic brain it is impossible to determine where—this means in what kind of materiality—a specific behavior of the drawing bio-robot can be localized. Though this hybrid misses the crucial moment of self-awareness, the artists from SymbioticA are fascinated by possible stages of creativity that could evolve from the rat’s brain cells cultured over a multi-electrode array. This cybernetic neural network steers the robotic arms to draw its environment as recorded by a camera, while the circulating data is processed by two computer programs: “We […] [are] interested to see if any emergent or ‘creative’ behavior occurs, or trace any change in the pattern of behavior of the neurons that occurs as a result of the stimulations.”16 It is important to note that SymbioticA poses the question whether or not the bio-cybernetic brain can be creative or not, rather than if creativity is computable and therefore programmable. The difference between artificial creativity and artificial intelligence becomes pressing here: both are aspects that could be used to distinguish humans from other biological species or machines. But while intelligence in Western culture is coded as something that is (gradually) measurable (by intelligence tests or the Turing test17, for instance) and potentially programmable,18 creativity is commonly understood as a spontaneous quality that is not measurable. Rainer Matthias Holm-Hadulla, locates the core of creativity in an interplay between creation and destruction, order, and chaos. He defines it as combining information anew,19 even on a neurobiological level. According to Holm-Hadulla, the processing of stimuli generally happens in the brain below the level of consciousness and only becomes conscious when a certain threshold is passed.20 With such an understanding of creativity, a self-aware subject becomes optional, and is no longer a necessity for its existence. 16 SymbioticA research Group, 2002. 17 Alan Turing, (1936/2004). On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. In Brian Jack Copeland (Ed.), The Essential Turing: Seminal Writings in Computing, Logic, Philosophy, Artificial Intelligence, and Artificial Life plus the Secrets of Enigma, (pp. 5890). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 18 John R. Searle’s differentiation between strong and weak artificial intelligence is of interest here: The weak approach to artificial intelligence understands the computer as a powerful analytical tool in the study of the mind that can simulate intelligent behavior, while in the strong approach to artificial intelligence “the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states”. John R. Searle, (1980). Minds, Brains, and Programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(3), 417-457: 417. 19 Rainer Holm-Hadulla, (2011). Kreativität zwischen Schöpfung und Zerstörung: Eine Synthese kulturwissenschaftlicher, psychologischer und neurobiologischer Forschungsergebnisse, (pp. 7&71). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 20 Rainer Holm-Hadulla, 2011, p. 60.

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As a collaboration between artists and scientists, MEART aims at exploring creativity by questioning the ambivalence between the artistic freedom and subjectivity one assumes a self-aware (human) artist to have, as well as the algorithm-like rules with which copying machines work. In this sense, MEART’s geographically distributed body can be understood as a reduction of an ‘actual artist’, which allows focus on the hand-eye-coordination. But at the same time MEART’s highly hybrid and highly medial body questions not only the concept of the bodily wholeness and the materiality of the living body in general, but also its delimitability. The question of whether or not one can perceive MEART as somehow lifelike and being capable of creativity is intimately connected to the question of its physical boundaries. To conceive the geographically detached parts of MEART as singular and only loosely connected favors an understanding as a mere machine, the parts of which can be replaced. By contrast, to regard MEART as an entity makes it easier to ascribe creativity to it, a feature that could be considered a pre-stage of subjectivity. In other words, what is at issue here is whether MEART is a trivial or a non-trivial machine in Heinz von Foerster’s understanding. He defines a machine as trivial if the given input predicts the output, whereas a machine is non-trivial if it is impossible to predict the output based on the given input.21 To locate the complexity within MEART gives reasons to identify it as a potential non-trivial machine. Here, the tension between what the semi-living bio-robot actually can do and what kind of potential functionalities are ascribed to it becomes manifest. Part of the fascination MEART evokes, is grounded in its potentiality: while MEART’s aiming at creativity may still seem rudimentary, its supposed potential for further success is rather palpable. Here it becomes apparent how faction and fiction commingle, resulting in an emphasis on the potentials the bio-robot might have.

2. The Semi-Living Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts, two artists who are founding members of SymbioticA, coined the term “semi-living” while working on their Tissue Culture and Art Project (the TC&AP). One of their first works in the late 1990ies was “B(W)omb”: a bomb-like shaped glass sculpture that was overgrown by living cells “harvested

21 See Heinz von Foerster, (1992). Entdecken oder Erfinden: Wie läßt sich Verstehen verstehen? In Heinz Gumin, & Heinrich Meier (Eds.), Einführung in den Konstruktivismus: Mit Beiträgen von Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Peter M. Hejl, Siegfried J. Schmidt und Paul Watzlawick, (pp. 41-88, 62 ff.). München; Zürich: Piper.



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from rabbit eyes”.22 It is remarkable that even at that time, the changed surface was only a symptom of the changed object itself: The TC&AP is introducing a new class of object/being in the continuum of life: the semi-livings are constructed of living and nonliving materials, and are new subautonomous entities located at the fuzzy border between the living/nonliving, grown/constructed, born/manufactured, and object/subject. […] they are not human imitations and do not attempt to be human replacements. Rather they are a new class of object being that is both similar to and different from other human artifacts (humans’ extended phenotype) such as constructed objects and selectively bred domestic plants and animals. These entities consist of living biological systems that are artificially designed and need human and/or technological intervention for their construction and maintenance.23 Both artists emphasize the ambivalent status of their semi-living art. However, they do not primarily describe them as hybrids, but as a new kind of other. Within these semi-living others MEART deserves special attention, as it seems to inhabit an exceptional position because of its “geographically detached” body. For Paul Vanouse, its body is Cartesian: “MEART is the ultimate Cartesian dualism—a machine body completely removed from its brain and to complicate matters even further the brain has been reconstituted in vitro from its cellular components.”24 However, it is essential to keep in mind that René Descartes grounded his argument for the exceptional position of human beings with respect to the uniqueness of the human soul. In his view, the presence of a soul separates humans from animals. His radical distinction did not separate the body from the brain, the latter being considered to be a part of the biological extended body. Instead, he separated the non-material, thinking soul or mind (res cogitans) from the extended, material and non-thinking world (res extensa). On the basis of this dissociation, Descartes not only granted a privileged position to the human soul, but also considered the material body, both human and animal, as a mechanism.25 A resulting misunderstanding is based on Descartes’ identification of the pineal gland as the seat of the soul: it is important to note that Descartes did not 22 Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr, 2007, pp. 234f. 23 Ibid., p. 232. 24 Paul Vanouse, (2006). Contemplating‚ Meart—The Semi Living Artist. Retrieved from http:// 25 René Descartes, (1969). Über den Menschen (1632) sowie Beschreibung des menschlichen Körpers (1648), nach der ersten französischen Ausgabe von 1664 übersetzt und mit einer historischen Einleitung und Anmerkungen versehen, (pp. 43 ff.). Karl E. Rothschuh (Ed.). Heidelberg: Schneider. (original works published 1632 and 1648).

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consider the pineal gland as some kind of material connection between soul and body, but a place where the non-material thinking soul could inf luence the non-thinking material body.26 Considering MEART, the material difference between the robotic body which inhabits the world, and is in turn inhabited by the world, and the operating cybernetic brain controlling that body from a distance gives reasons to understand why this misunderstanding is so tempting. But the common brain-versus-body distinction does not differentiate between the material and the non-material, but between the steering part and the executive part. However, reducing the medial-robotic body—two robotic arms and a digital camera—to the ultimate machinelike executive, misses the hybrid materiality of the bio-cybernetic brain—mammalian neurons cultured over a silicium chip. Vanouse already acknowledged its complex structure even if its functioning is not inf luenced by a soul27: on the one hand, as a remote steersman, the cybernetic neural network takes advantage of both biology and technology; on the other hand, being a bio-technological hybrid, one can never be sure which part is in charge of specific actions of the robot’s body. Considering MEART’s hybrid and globally detached architecture, a correlation between a material origin and the occurring functionality is no longer possible. This ambivalent causality facilitates the emergence of new, different, and unpredictable patterns of behavior that SymbioticA is hoping for.

3. Evolution In order to explore this entanglement it is essential to recall MEART’s development since this installation actually forms the second stage of a project series: Prior to MEART, SymbioticA created Fish and Chips in 2001. In this pre-stage, the robotic body and the cybernetic brain were installed in the same place. The cybernetic brain in this case consisted of goldfish-neurons, “cultured over silicon and Pyrex wafers [: using] a single electrode to pick up the activity and a single electrical stimulator to provide the feedback.”28. Being as well connected to a robotic arm, the cybernetic brain of Fish and

26 See Martin Schneider, (2004). Das Weltbild des 17. Jahrhunderts. Philosophisches Denken zwischen Reformation und Aufklärung, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, pp. 157ff, and Klaus Hammacher, (1996). Einleitung. In Klaus Hammacher (Trans. & Ed.), René Descartes: Les passions de l’ame. Die Leidenschaften der Seele (5th ed.), (pp. XV–LXXXVIII: p. XXIIf. and pp. XXXVIIff.). Hamburg: Meiner. 27 Which in Descartes’ terms would be the only way to differentiate it from other machines, animals or automata. 28 Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr, 2007, p. 241.



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Chips transformed—that is to say: expressed—its neuronal activities in images and sounds: while the robotic arm drew doodles, a musical score was manipulated as well.29 In 2006, Silent Barrage marked the third stage of this project: A cybernetic brain in Atlanta has a now multiplied body in an exhibition room that could be placed around the world: 32 “noisy pole robots” form the corporeal manifestation of Silent Barrage, which “investigates the nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction”.30 With Silent Barrage the role of the audience evolves: Every new stage of SymbioticA’s artwork has incorporated the audience more and more closely, both at a conceptual as well as at a corporeal level. While Fish and Chips only needed its audience as witnesses, with MEART the viewers turned into the viewed: members of the audience would act as catalyzers, whose taken pictures start the feedback loop mechanism and become MEART’s constantly recoded content. In Silent Barrage the audience is not only part of the environment of the robotic bodies but becomes part of this semi-living installation itself, creating a symbiosis. The movement of the audience between the robotic poles is captured by a camera and sent back to the cybernetic neural network, where every pole relates to a sector of the neural network: […] the movements of the individual robots correspond to the level of [neuronal B.W.] activity in the area. The robots markings on the poles hint to the continuous neuronal activity, conjuring traces of ‘memories’ of past actions. The movement of audience in the Silent Barrage’s space is used to stimulate the culture. Nerve cells activity usually happens when a certain combination of stimulations reaches a threshold; the same can be said about our decision making. The [audience’s B.W.] navigation through Silent Barrage is made out of a series of incremental decisions made in an overly stimulated environment, out of the context of daily life. The nerve cells are also out of context, removed from the brain they once belong to, they are cultured in an artificial environment, trying to make connections with the cells around them. The barrage of activity is a symptom, can pairing cells and the audience can help make ‘meaningful’ connections that will quieten the barrage? Can it happen in a place which is nothing but quiet?31 This relation encourages the audience to try to provoke direct reactions to their presence. Jens Hauser sees this behavior rooted in previous experiences with digital media art that allow direct interactions with the artwork.32

29 Ibid., p. 241 and SymbioticA, 2002. 30 Retrieved from 31 Retrieved from 32 Jens Hauser, 2014.

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In Silent Barrage art and scientific research meet as the artwork is supposed to help to treat epilepsy. Based on the observation that cultured neurons show a similar kind of activity as that which occurs during epileptic seizures, neuroscientists hope to understand how the environmental feedback, that is the audience moving in-between the robotic poles, can appease the activity in the cybernetic neural network. Their aim is to use their findings for the treatment of patients with epilepsy. In this sense, feeding the movements of the audience back to the neural network is “an attempt to silence the barrage of electrical impulses”.33 In bio-ecological terms this relationship could be considered a commensalism, a symbiosis in which only one partner benefits while the other remains basically uninf luenced. But taking into account that the audience gains something—and this might merely be the pleasure of exploring the robotic bamboo forest, or the potential to think about our worldly entanglement with other hybrids—the term mutualism, a relationship in which both benefit, seems more appropriate to describe the specific relationship between the audience and art triggered by Silent Barrage. In this sense, the semi-living bio-robots are medial bodies. In his doctoral thesis on biotechnological art, Hauser (2014) suggests a differentiation between biological media (“biologische Medien”), bio-media (“Biomedien”), and media of biology (“Medien der Biologie”): Biological media are milieus that define biological systems; bio-media are instruments that allow biological systems to act; and media of biology are approaches (Hauser names measurement, analysis, or observation) that inf luence the biological system. In SymbioticA’s installations, Hauser argues, all three types of bio-mediality take effect. Considering them under the aspect of biological media allows one to see how the embeddedness on different levels shapes the way in which each part acts and how the whole can be perceived. The geographically detached semi-living bio-robots are set in a specific distributed environment: The exhibition room with the audience, in which the medial-robotic body is located, and the spatially distant sterile laboratory, in which its cybernetic brain can survive. As a whole, this constitutes the milieu that shapes how one could see (and interact with) semi-living bio-robots like MEART and Silent Barrage. The exhibition room and the laboratory are connected via the internet, which both ensures the required technical conditions (such as the time shift) and exposes the specific problems (such as network disruptions). Considering them as biomedia shifts the focus to how the cybernetic brain interacts with the MEA based on its sensory input. Considering them as media of biology focuses on MEART and Silent Barrage as medical experimental setups that not only provide innovative findings but also shape the cybernetic brain and its robotic body. Given the different layers on which these medial hybrid bodies are constituted, an interpretation of SymbioticA’s installations as a Cartesian body is not a sound 33 Retrieved from



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model to learn from their “geographically detached” cybernetic robot-bodies. What is important to remember is that the central aspect of these installations is their bodily detached spatial arrangement. The question of a soul is not even implicitly posed. SymbioticA are interested in emergent behavior that derives from this distributed hybrid body, controlled by a hybrid bio-cybernetic brain. As such, MEART and Silent Barrage demonstrate that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”34 because this whole cannot exist without its entanglement with its environment. Without their embedded and embodied bodies these bio-cybernetic brains are nothing. As a medical experiment and a work of art, Silent Barrage shows this clearly. Hence, some essential findings refer here to the following aspects: how the distributed parts form one entity, which parts belong to that hybrid entity or where and how the body of the audience is localized, and especially how both—the artwork and its audience—co-constitute each other’s bodies through their interaction.

4. Intra-acting Companion Species It is essential to understand this situatedness and embodiment as a mutual process involving simultaneously the bio-robots with their cybernetic brain and the audiences. Theoretical approaches by Donna Jeanne Haraway and Karen Barad provide a conceptual background for analyzing the rhizomatic interdependencies between the geographically detached parts of the semi-living bio-robots and their audiences. Famous for her redefinition of the cyborg as a powerful metaphor against hierarchies and dualisms, Haraway is generally interested in how diversifying encounters with different kinds of others allow for a constant mutual reshaping of each other.35 Instead of thinking about what separates our species from all others, ask how the entities in any encounter make us all the things we are. Ask how they are the products of their relationships. To be a human is always to be in a relationship with a host of others: plants, animals, humans, dead, living, fantasized. To be on Earth is to be in a companion-species relationship in the sense of coming into being with a crowd of others, and in the sense that we shape and reshape each other into what we are.36 34 Aristoteles, (1971). Aristotle’s Metaphysics: Books Gamma, Delta and Epsilon, (Christopher Kirwan, Trans.), (p. 1045a). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 35 Liz Else, (2008). Interview: The Age of Entanglement. New Scientist, 198 (2661), 51-51: 51. Retrieved from 36 Ibid.

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That Haraway locates the difference at the level of species implies that there is a defining difference in meeting with a dog, a cyborg or a semi-living artist, like MEART. In order to analyze our entanglement with animals—both domestic and wild—Haraway has coined the term “companion species” in an effort to overcome anthropocentric human exceptionalism. But Haraway’s analysis is not only intriguing to understand our entanglement with pets and animals, it can as well help to contextualize encounters with semi-living robots. Her first example considered in the introduction to “When species meet” (2008) is Jim’s Dog, which was photographed by a colleague of Haraway’s: it is no real lapdog but “[a] burned out redwood stump covered with redwood needles, mosses, ferns, lichens—and even a little California bay laurel seedling for a docked tail”37. Only the right time, light, and perspective made it possible to see a mammal in the overgrown stump. This “dog” demonstrates two main aspects of her argument: First, it is an entity consisting of different layers of symbiosis: plants, bacteria, fungi feeding on formerly living matter that now forms this dog-shaped figure, which is further constituted by James Clifford’s photographic gaze. As such, this digital picture visualizes how every living body is populated by other organisms, such as benign or pathogenic bacteria. “Becoming with”—as Haraway names the mutual development of identities in each encounter—thus happens not only as a para-social moment between species but is inscribed into every level of our biological and cultural bodies. Second, and another important point to make about the picture of Jim’s Dog, is that it also requires a “haptic-optic touch”38. It is not enough to simply look at the picture and recognize the dog’s shape. It is essential to realize the situatedness of this recognition. Haraway considers this picture simultaneously in the context of those technologies that made it possible (including the digital channels through which she received it) and in relation to the cultural technique of walking, and even to American eco-politics. Only by being aware of the contexts that implicitly or explicitly shape our actual encounters can we look back at our companion species with respect, argues Haraway. Explaining this etymologically, her term “companion species” reaches back to the Latin terms cum panis, specere and respecere. She explains that as a conceptualization of cross-species encounters her expression encapsulates encounters at eye level. Therefore, the contact zones39 where companion species meet are central for these encounters. Linguistically, a contact zone refers to the communication between speakers of different first languages. By contrast, Mary Louise Pratt redefined this concept in the context of postco37 Donna J. Haraway, (2008). When Species Meet, (p. 5). Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press. 38 Ibid., p. 6. 39 Ibid., p. 4, & pp. 205-246.



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lonial studies as the social space in which cultures meet, often with an uneven power constellation.40 Haraway emphasizes the act of communicating as an act of building this contact zone. Here, it becomes clear that her approach requires a broad conception of communication. Haraway uses Karen Barad’s differentiation between intra- and interactions to describe the different interspecies encounters that map these contact zones. According to Barad “the neologism ‘intra-action’ [signifies] the inseparability of ‘objects’ and ‘agencies of observation’ (in contrast to ‘inter-action,’ which reinscribes the contested dichotomy).”41 The term inter-action describes mutual effects of preexisting and autonomous entities on each other; therefore, inter-actions are based on a fundamental, preceding difference. The term intra-action emphasizes how the encountering entities emerge due to their mutual inf luence; hence, intra-actions are relations that form a difference within the encounter. This differentiation between intra- and inter-action, which Barad elaborates through analyses of the set-ups of scientific experiments, plays a crucial part in Barad’s effort to rethink matter. Observing how the primordial role given to language has led to the dominance of representationalism, she develops her theory of agential realism to stress and explore the role of matter as counter-movement. This enables her to establish a performative “Onto-epistem-ology—the study of practices and knowing in being”42—which shall overcome the separation between epistemology and ontology. This shift is represented by her replacement of things—understood as diachronic ties between materiality and characteristics—with phenomena, defined by Barrad as intra-active “entanglements” that produce synchronic ties between materiality and its characteristics.43 Based on Nils Bohr’s idea of an apparatus, Barad develops her own notion of apparatuses as “open-ended [material-discursive] practices”44 in order to stress that it is not only the experimental set-up but also the scientist and the “natural cultural”45 environment that inf luence the production of meaning. Analogously to her distinction between intra- and interaction, she opposes the Cartesian dualism with what she names an agential cut, which “enacts a local resolution within the phenomenon 40 Donna J. Haraway, 2008, p. 216, and Mary Louise Pratt (1992). Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation [2nd ed.], (pp. 6f). New York: Routledge. 41 Karen Barad, (1998). Getting Real: Technoscientific Practices and the Materialization of Reality. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 10 (2), 87-126: 96. 42 Karen Barad, (2005). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. In Corinna Bath, et al. (Eds.), Materialität denken: Studien zur technologischen Verkörperung—Hybride Artefakte, posthumane Körper, (p. 213). Bielefeld: transcript. 43 Karen Barad, 2005, p. 203. 44 Ibid., pp. 201, 205. 45 I am adopting Haraway’s term here as it illustrates the inseparability between culture and nature.

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of the inherent ontological indeterminacy”.46 Therefore, these cuts are of crucial importance, as the moments in which meaning is constituted.47

5. Historizations Although there are significant differences between Haraway’s and Barad’s thinking, both invite us to consider our place within the world—in a sense of our current encounters as well as in a sense of our worldly becoming. This means that they point both to the naturalcultural situatedness of each encounter and to its individual framing. In this respect, SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots can be understood under two aspects: as a general or generalizing cultural canvas, on which current (science) fictional models of what future technologies might be able to do are projected, and as multilayered places of inscription, in which the cultural and the subjective intermingle. Hence SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots should be contextualized at the conf luence of art, sciences, and biotechnologies as well in the fields of robotics, brain-research, and neuro-prosthetics—just to name a few. Each of these contextualizations shifts the focus on how the bodies of Fish and Chips, MEART, and Silence Barrage could be analyzed. For example, localizing SymbioticA’s bio-robots in the history of mechanically mimicking cultural skills allows unique features to emerge. The endeavor of building automata that perform cultural skills was connected with an anthropomorphic appearance as early as ancient times, but it did not become a common reality until the eighteenth century. The famous automata by Jacques de Vaucanson or the automata made by the Jaquet-Droz family, which could write, draw, or play musical instruments, fascinated audiences then as they still do now.48 It is evident that SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots share with 18th-century automata both the fascination for advanced technologies and the fact that their 46 Karen Barad, 2005, p. 200. 47 Barad’s example on how intra-actions alter the notion of causality, a question of whether light has wavelike or particle like characteristics; depending on the experimental arrangement both assumptions can be proven (See Barad 2005, p. 200f.). 48 At first sight this genealogy seems to underline the reference to Descartes’ Cartesian body. But it is important to be aware that the direct contextualization of these automata in the mechanistic and materialistic philosophies of the 17th and 18th century is a retrospect view. Though these mechanical figures were influenced by Descartes’ determination of the human body as a machine consisting of moving parts and Julien Offray de La Mettrie’s understanding of the body as a clock-work (cf. Julien Offray de La Mettrie, (2001). Der Mensch eine Maschine. Holm Tetens (Ed.). Stuttgart: Reclam. (original published 1747).) they could not be considered direct adaptations of these philosophies.



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complexity baff les spectators. Neither the fascinating mechanical intricacies of the automata of the eighteenth century nor the bio-cybernetic brains of twentieth-century semi-living robots are comprehensible just on sight. At the same time, their differences cannot be ignored: a first noticeable difference concerns the significance of their changed aesthetics. While 18th-century automata needed an aesthetic appearance depicting an enclosed, self-contained body following then-contemporary beauty standards to enhance the impression made by their marvelous drawings, music, and writings, today’s semi-living bio-robots stress their hybridity by means of their distributed bodies and the ambivalence of animate and non-animate matter with their (para)creative paintings. Furthermore, what signals the possible presence of life in these machines has altered: in the case of 18th-century automata, the repeated regularity of their movements was proof of their possible enlivenment, whereas in the case of the semi-living bio-robots, it is precisely the unpredictability of their behavior that raises the possibility of creativity and hence enlivenment. To contextualize SymbioticA’s installations as late and distant descendants of the eighteenth-century automata points to their origin in the field of robotics as well. However, there is a distinctive cultural shift between the lifelike automata of the eighteenth century and modern robots.49 The eighteenth-century automatons aim at becoming functionally indistinguishable from mankind, that is to perform culturally coded skills, like writing, drawing, and playing an instrument, as well as humans do. Modern robots seek to partially exceed human capacities; they are meant to be stronger or more enduring than humans. Another use of robotics in art reveals the difference between industrial robots and semi-living bio-robots: In 2007 Robotlab50 programmed an industrial robotic arm to copy the Bible. The Torah followed in 2014 as well as the drawing of a Martian landscape. Comparing Robotlab’s different usage of the industrial robotic arm and the installations of SymbioticA’s bio-robots shows different conceptions of technology, in that the notion of an executive tool is complemented with a (para)creative entity. These works of art can therefore be understood only in an actual encounter: In a sense, when we started to look at what we could get these tissue constructs to do, we emulated humans’ path of interaction with fellow living beings. […] Our semi-livings are ‘evocative objects’ that raise emotional and intellectual reactions and suggest alternative scenarios for a future.51

49 Bianca Westermann, 2012, pp. 147-152. 50 Retrieved from 51 See Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr, 2007, p. 233.

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Every stage of SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots involves the audience on a different level. The resulting contact zone allows different ways of interaction or even intra-action. In this respect, Fish and Chips is objectified within the encounter as the main mode of interacting is to gaze at it, while MEART objectifies the audience by making them the content of its (para-)creativity—although one could argue whether or not only a self-aware subject is able to objectify someone or something. At the same time, the audience may think of MEART and Fish and Chips as somehow being alive, a pre-stage of subjectification as a necessary basis of being capable of creativity. Both installations allow the possibility of interactions in Barad’s terms: encounters, in which preexisting entities meet without enabling each other to become (too) close or to encourage the potential mutual reshaping too strongly. In contrast, Silent Barrage invites intra-actions because of its spatial accessible embodiment and the opacity of its behavior to the audience: the correlation between input (the audience’s presence) and output (silencing the barrage) is less obvious. Nevertheless, the enlivenment of the semi-living bio-robot still seems to be on the same level as very simple life forms like single-celled-organisms. Whether or not they do strike their audience as a self-aware entity depends on each individual encounter with the semi-living bio-robot. The spatial separation of the bio-cybernetical brain might be considered a comforting factor here: Being the core of the uncanny, the cybernetic brain is kept at bay by the distance. The screen, which is the only manner by which to actually see the bio-cybernetic brain located in the laboratory in Atlanta, is therefore a moment of reassurance as its distant placement underlines this distance as comforting.

6. Reshaping Audiences It resides with each individual how one perceives and judges the individual encounter with the detached body of a semi-living bio-robot. The audience can decide whether or not to recognize in the cybernetic system such qualities as enlivenment or creativity, or even pre-stages of individuality and subjectivity, or to understand MEART and Silent Barrage as simple mechanical reduction. SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots impose no prescriptions about how the members of audience should understand them. Instead they allow for all possible and individual interpretations of how to define these bodies. The experimental setting of the exhibition provides a mind-opening or even playful environment, in which the encounter between audience and semi-living bio-robot creates two entities that co-determine each other. In this respect, what separates body and brain is not the geographical detachment, but rather an individual characteristic of this artificial body. To engage with the possibilities the semi-living bio-robots offer is to decen-



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tralize anthropocentricity: every former exclusively human characteristic that the semi-living bio-robots display forces us to rethink our individuality. Taking into account how SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots are able to reshape their audience brings forth novel manners of understanding hybridity. In humanities and more specifically in cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and postmodern theories of identity, hybridity is currently conceptualized at macro levels between race, class, gender, and further categories. Hence, Andreas Reckwitz argues concepts like hybridity make us aware of a parallelism of different, maybe even contradictory patterns of meaning within the same social practices and discourses.52 That is, this notion of hybridity refers to a form of dynamization within cultural structures.53 In Reckwitz’s view, hybridity is basically a trait of modernity and postmodernity. His approach on modernity overcomes the separation between culture and the subject when he argues that culture produces its subjects and subjects simultaneously produce their culture. What is of notice in his approach is that he emphasizes time-based dominant codes of subjectivity, which are completed by subordinated non-dominating codes. Since every subject is shaped by different cultural codes rooted in different orders of subjectivation, Reckwitz understands every modern subject as a hybrid entity.54 His notion of hybridity surpasses the conception of this category in terms of amalgamation as well as the self-deconstruction of patterns of difference. 55 He favors instead cultural hybridity as preservation of the difference of differences.56 That is, not only the different cultural codes that form a hybridity are preserved, but differences and contradictions are an essential feature. SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots not only exemplify this concept of hybridity on micro- and on macro-levels but their actual embodiment allows to go beyond Reckwitz’s conception of hybridity. In their case, hybridity is a bodily feature as well as a conceptual feature: they are hybrids because of their cybernetic brain and their geographically detached bodies and their existence at the border 52 Andreas Reckwitz, (2008). Generalisierte Hybridität und Diskursanalyse: Zur Dekonstruktion von ‘Hybriditäten’ in spätmodernen populären Subjektdiskursen. In Britta Kalscheuer, & Lars Allolio-Näcke (Eds.), Kulturelle Differenzen begreifen: Das Konzept der Transdifferenz aus interdisziplinärer Sicht, (pp. 17 & 19ff.). Frankfurt; New York: Campus. In this context it is noteworthy that Reckwitz distinguishes the concept of hybridity in science studies based on the works of Donna Haraway (cf. Donna J. Haraway, (1991). Simian, Cyborgs, and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. New York: FAB.), Michel Serres, (1987). Der Parasit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp., and Bruno Latour, (1991). Wir sind nie modern gewesen. Berlin: Akademie. Reckwitz defines the notion of hybridity in terms of an interface between man and machine 2008, p. 19. 53 Ibid. 54 Andreas Reckwitz, 2006/2010, p. 19. 55 Andreas Reckwitz, 2008, pp. 19f. 56 Ibid., p. 20.

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of material reality and virtuality (as the body parts are connected via internet). They exist at the threshold of different cultural codes, which they do not dissolve but rather obtain and prolifically connect with each other in every encounter with the audience anew. The semi-living bio-robots are no longer mere programmed machines performing defined tasks or living cells without restrains. Here it is important to be aware, that the cultural fascination for robots has always been the dream of a tireless working servant, while the fear of being dominated by one’s own machines has caused irritation. The cultural captivation with creating life has always been related to immortality, but it was also accompanied by the fear of being endangered by the obtained power. As their core of hybridity is a bio-cybernetical brain these robots remind us of the inf luence of material hybridity: they are material hybrids of Hard-, Soft-, and Wetware. They bring together different forms of matter in a functional entity that neither denies this difference nor invalidates it. Rather, they affirm hybridity as a multilayered feature that is not only material but as well material: The semi-living bio-robots are corporeal and cultural hybrids. This is exactly why Haraway chose Jim’s dog as her very first example to show our entanglement with other species, and to emphasize the different layers of our own hybridity as humans in the 21st century, that denies any separation from technology or other creatures. Thus, the question to be addressed is no longer that we all are hybrids, but how every encounter with other entities assembles and reassembles us over and over again. What SymbioticA’s semi-living bio-robots show is a change of focus towards the interdependence between material and cultural codes. It is no longer sufficient to simply acknowledge the differences that form separate entities, and how mutual reshaping happens without a resolution of the defining distinctions must be considered: The semi-living bio-robots show that they favor their defining differences, the f luidity of which does not require resolution. The bio-cybernetic brain constantly exemplifies that neurons do not behave like a computer chip, but rather that they develop through their symbiosis. This reciprocal inf luence takes place at different levels: whereas the concept of computer gains the potential to overcome its functional restriction, the brain gains a new understanding for what makes the human specifically human or specifically hybrid.

References Aristoteles (1971). Aristotle’s Metaphysics: Books Gamma, Delta and Epsilon, (Christopher Kirwan, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Bakkum, Douglas J., Shkolnik, Alexander C.,Ben-Ary, Guy, Gamblen, Phil, DeMarse, Thomas B., & Potter, Steve M. (2004). Removing the ‘A’ from AI: Embodied Cultured Networks. In Luc Steels, & Rolf Pfeiffer (Eds.), Proceedings



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of the Dagstuhl Conference on Embodied Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved October from pdf (accessed 15/10/2015). Barad, Karen (1998). Getting Real: Technoscientific Practices and the Materialization of Reality. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 10 (2), 87126. Barad, Karen (2005). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. In Corinna Bath, et al. (Eds.), Materialität denken: Studien zur technologischen Verkörperung — Hybride Artefakte, posthumane Körper, (pp. 187-216). Bielefeld: transcript. Catts, Oron, & Ionat, Zurr (2007). Semi-Living Art. In Eduardo Kac (Ed.), Signs of Life. Bio Art and Beyond, (pp. 231-248). Cambridge: MIT Press. Retrieved from (accessed 15/10/2015). Clynes, Manfred E., & Kline, Nathan S. (1960/1995). Cyborgs and Space. In Chris Hables Gray et al. (Eds.). The Cyborg Handbook, (pp. 26-76). London: Routledge. De La Mettrie, Julien Offray (2001). Der Mensch eine Maschine. Holm Tetens (Ed.). Stuttgart: Reclam. Descartes, René (1969). Über den Menschen (1632) sowie Beschreibung des menschlichen Körpers (1648), nach der ersten französischen Ausgabe von 1664 übersetzt und mit einer historischen Einleitung und Anmerkungen versehen, Karl E. Rothschuh (Ed.). Heidelberg: Schneider. Else, Liz (2008). Interview: The Age of Entanglement. New Scientist, 198 (2661), 51-51. Retrieved from =true&db=aph&AN=32776446&site=ehoeh-live (accessed 17/05/2014). Hammacher, Klaus (1996). Einleitung. In Klaus Hammacher (Trans. & Ed.), René Descartes: Les passions de l’ame. Die Leidenschaften der Seele (5th ed.), (pp. XV–LXXXVIII: p. XXIIf. and pp. XXXVIIff.). Hamburg: Meiner. Haraway, Donna J. (1991). Simian, Cyborgs, and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. New York: FAB. Haraway, Donna J. (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press. Hauser, Jens (2014). Biotechnologie als Medialität. Strategien Organischer Medienkunst (Doctoral Dissertation). Bochum: Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Holm-Hadulla, Rainer (2011). Kreativität zwischen Schöpfung und Zerstörung: Eine Synthese kulturwissenschaftlicher, psychologischer und neurobiologischer Forschungsergebnisse. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Latour, Bruno (1991). Wir sind nie modern gewesen. Berlin: Akademie. Leiter, Magdalena (2015/06/02). Es gibt keine BioArt! Retrieved from http://www. (accessed 15/10/2015).

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Pratt, Mary Louise (1992). Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation [2nd ed.]. New York: Routledge. Reckwitz, Andreas (2008). Generalisierte Hybridität und Diskursanalyse: Zur Dekonstruktion von ‘Hybriditäten’ in spätmodernen populären Subjektdiskursen. In Britta Kalscheuer, & Lars Allolio-Näcke (Eds.), Kulturelle Differenzen begreifen: Das Konzept der Transdifferenz aus interdisziplinärer Sicht, (pp. 17-40). Frankfurt; New York: Campus. Schneider, Martin (2004). Das Weltbild des 17. Jahrhunderts. Philosophisches Denken zwischen Reformation und Auf klärung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Searle, John R. (1980). Minds, Brains, and Programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(3), 417-457. Serres, Michel (1987). Der Parasit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. SymbioticA Research Group (2002). MEART—the semi living artist (AKA Fish & Chips) Stage 2. In Thomas Paul (Ed.), BEAP, Biennale of Electronic Art, 2002: The Exhibitions, (pp. 60-68). Turing, Alan (1936/2004). On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. In Brian Jack Copeland (Ed.), The Essential Turing: Seminal Writings in Computing, Logic, Philosophy, Artificial Intelligence, and Artificial Life plus the Secrets of Enigma, (pp. 58-90). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Vanouse, Paul (2006). Contemplating‚ Meart—The Semi Living Artist. Retrieved from (accessed 15/10/2015). Von Foerster, Heinz (1992). Entdecken oder Erfinden: Wie läßt sich Verstehen verstehen? In Heinz Gumin, & Heinrich Meier (Eds.), Einführung in den Konstruktivismus: Mit Beiträgen von Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Peter M. Hejl, Siegfried J. Schmidt und Paul Watzlawick, (pp. 41-88). München; Zürich: Piper. Westermann, Bianca (2012). Anthropomorphe Maschinen: Grenzgänge zwischen Biologie und Technik seit dem 18. Jahrhundert. München: Wilhelm Fink. Westermann, Bianca (2017). Ist der Cyborg in der Realität angekommen? Mobile Medien und Mensch-Maschinen als Elemente des Alltags. In Marie-Hélène Adam, Szilivia Gellai, & Julia Knif ka (Eds.), Technisierte Lebenswelt: Über den Prozess der Figuration von Mensch und Technik, (pp. 159-172). Bielefeld: transcript.


Artificial human beings and the power of literature: Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Holmberg, and Piglia Matthias Hausmann

1. Prologue: An automaton that disturbs the peace of mind of a supporter of materialism At an evening party in an unnamed German town, probably near Nuremberg, the mayor, who is among the guests, is suddenly confronted with an unexplainable phenomenon: a man walks in, introduces himself as being Horacio Kalibang and affirms that he has no weight at all and is thus able to place his center of gravity wherever he wants, defying physical laws. The mayor, a skeptical spirit marked by the positivist thinking of his time, is intrigued and investigates the case, only to discover that Horacio is nothing but an automaton. Shortly after this discovery, the mayor, accompanied by the narrator, visits the laboratory of Oscar Braun, who invented this machine. The inventor shows his two visitors many other automata that resemble human beings so perfectly that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from the former.1 Later on, during the marriage of his daughter Luisa, the mayor receives a letter in which Braun reveals that he is in love with Luisa and, as she has married another man, he has made for himself an automaton resembling her exactly. More strikingly, he pretends to have built thousands of other automata with which he has invaded the whole world, so that in the future no one can be sure whether or not his counterpart is a machine. This is a brief summary of the content of “Horacio Kalibang o las autómatas”, a short story written in 1879 by the Argentinean author Eduardo L. Holmberg (18521937), which is considered to be one of the first science fiction texts in Argentina

1 The mayor is deceived several times by automata that are perfect copies of human beings and he openly admits that he cannot see the difference between them and humans anymore: “Si son ellos los autómatas o si lo somos nosotros, no lo sé.” (Holmberg, Eduardo L. (2000). Horacio Kalibang o las autómatas. In Adriana Fernández & Edgardo Piglio (Eds.), Historias futuras. Antología de la ciencia ficción argentina (pp. 15-38). Buenos Aires: Emecé, p. 35. “If they are the robots or we are the robotos, I don’t know”.


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and in Spanish-language literature in general.2 That the narrator tells us that his native city is Nuremberg, seems a deliberate choice by Holmberg as the city is not only well known for its tradition in mechanical artefacts, to which a clear allusion in the beginning of the story is made (p. 19), but is also the native city of Albrecht Dürer whose studies of the human body have been a model for many artists. Thus, the creation of human-like robots is foreshadowed at the story’s beginning. Furthermore, the setting in Germany also creates a parallel to E.T.A. Hoffmann. This is key, because Holmberg continues the idea of the automaton, which is classically representated in Hoffmann’s Sandman in which puppets and the blurring between the human and the mechanical are central aspects.3 However, the story does not only entail intertextual connections to previous texts; it also shows parallels to later ones, especially to Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Eve future. The complex parallelism between these two works is not limited to the same main idea: that is, the creation of life-like automata with the main purpose of having an exact copy of a beloved woman with whom to realize a love affair that would not be possible with the “original”. Moreover, both authors mention the American scientist Edison as the central figure of the inventions that they present. Holmberg’s Oscar Braun says that, “los últimos descubrimientos de Edison han herido mi amor propio nacional, estimulándome a dirgir mis investigaciones a un sentido definitivo” (“Edison’s last discoveries have wounded my national self-esteem and made me direct my investigations in a definitive direction”, p. 29), whereas in Villiers’ text Edison himself invents the apparatus. These inventions, made or inf luenced by Edison, do not remain simple plot elements but have

2 See Fernández, Adriana, Pígoli, Edgardo (2000). Un siglo de ciencia ficción argentina. Panorama el género en nuestro país. In Adriana Fernández, & Edgardo Pígoli (Eds.), Historias futuras. Antología de la ciencia ficción argentina (pp. 9-14). Buenos Aires: Emecé. The authors explain that science fiction in Argentina starts with Holmberg, Lugones and Quiroga who are the first authors combining science and literature in the La Plata region. Moreover, Holmberg’s text is highly interesting in the context of Spanish-language literature—radically different in this respect from the German, French and English traditions—as there are very few texts that deal with automata. See Mesa Gancedo, Daniel (2002). Extraños semejantes. El personaje artificial y el artefacto narrativo en la literatura hispanoamericana. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza, p. 163. 3 Holmberg underlines his wish to enter the tradition initiated by Hoffmann by the choice of his title that is a clear allusion to Hoffmann’s “Die Automate”. This allusion to the European literary tradition is combined with the Latin American tradition as the first automaton to appear in the story (and also in its title) is named Kalibang, an open allusion to Shakespeare’s character Caliban who is often used to describe Latin American states of mind. For a detailed analysis of the relationship between Holmberg’s text and Shakespeare’s The Tempest as well as subsequent Latin American works dealing with this topic see Salto, Garciela Nélida (1997). Otro Calibán: Horacio Kalibang o los autómatas. Casa de las Américas 38, 32-39.

Artificial human beings and the power of literature

deeper implications: Holmberg is said to be an adherent of positivism,4 but this text can nevertheless be read as a clear warning against this important current of his time or at least against its exaggerations.5 For this dimension the character of the mayor and his reaction to the invasion of robots is of crucial importance, an importance underscored by the fact that the narrator gives his “retrato moral” (“moral portrait”) in a complete chapter of the short story. In this portrait the mayor is described as an utterly rational person and an adherent of materialism, a position typical for the second half of the nineteenth century: “El burgomaestre es uno de aquellos hombres que siguen con toda su alma los progresos del materialismo en Alemania” (“The mayor is one of these men who follow with all their heart the progress of materialism in Germany”, p. 25).6 He does not believe in anything supernatural, “No cree en Dios, ni en el diablo” (“He does not believe in God nor in the devil”, p. 25), and always seeks rational explanations—something which the story’s ending reveals as a great mistake.7 The uncanny inventor Oscar Braun writes in his final letter to the mayor: “Persiste en tus ideas: ¡son la luz del porvenir!” (“Persist in your ideas: they are the light of the future!”), indicating that such standpoints as those of the mayor have allowed him to create his army of robots, making possible (and even probable) an inhuman, soulless future where men and robots do not differ from one another anymore. With this end of the text we return to its beginning: the very first sentence, pronounced by the mayor (“Es completamente falso”; “This is completely wrong”), can be seen as foreshadowing, on the one hand, the appearance of Horacio Kalibang. Yet, on the other hand, this line can also be read in retrospect as a comment on the mayor’s own thoughts that are showed as inadequate. This is shown in his reaction to the inventor’s letter: the mayor cries and, what is more, implores “algo grande y noble” (“something great and noble”) to save his daughter, an exclamation that clearly indicates his return to (Christian) faith. Such an attack against positivism correlated with a return to metaphysical ideas can also be observed in Villiers’ novel that I will now analyze in more detail while focusing on a highly important aspect, already present in Holmberg’s short 4 See for example Altamiranda, Daniel (2004). Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg (1852-1937). In Darrell B. Lockhart (Ed.), Latin American Science Fiction Writers. An A-to-Z Guide (pp. 106-108). Westport; London: Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 106. “[he] enthusiastically supported scientific positivism” 5 See Salto, (1997), p. 39. “Kalibang alerta sobre los riesgos de la aceptación ingenua de las teorías y estrategias científicas.” “Kalibang warns about the risks of naively accepting the scientific theories and strategies” 6 The mayor also confirms this characterization himself: “Soy materialista.” (“I am a materialist.”, p. 32) 7 This attack is also manifest because the mayor is not able to distinguish automata from human beings–underscoring that our ratio is not enough to face the mysteries of life, not even those created by science, and thus ratio itself.



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story: the use of artificial creatures for metapoetic purposes. Such a metapoetic dimension is disclosed by various comments that directly address the reader, making him think about the functioning of literature.8 This is particularly obvious in the story’s last sentence, “El lector tocará los demás resortes” (“The reader will handle the other springs”, p. 38), which is a clear postulate for an active reader who seeks multiple interpretations of the text. One of these interpretations, to which this last sentence gives a decisive hint, is metapoetic. The noun “resorte”, a “leitmotiv” of the text and often used in relation with the automata, is particularly elucidating in this context. Its deliberate use as the very last word of the story indicates that the text itself is also an artificially created automaton. By this means an analogy is suggested between the text and the artificial creatures described in it.9 Holmberg thereby reaches a blurring between “el relato de la creación” and “la creación del relato” (“the story of the creation and the creation of the story”), as Mesa Gancedo puts it (2002, p. 168) , indicating the necessity of a metaliterary reading.

2. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam: L’Eve future, A metaliterary interpretation A few years after Holmberg’s text was published, the French symbolist author Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam wrote L’Eve future (1886), one of the most emblematic texts about the creation of an artificial being. His novel has often been considered the most sophisticated embodiment of this theme in French literature.10 The following pages intend to highlight an aspect of this novel that has not yet been given much attention, although it seems of particular importance. I want to stress the special possibilities of literature presented by Villiers in L’Eve future that provide consistent arguments to discuss the concept of “faction”, one of the major axes in this collective volume about medial bodies.

8 This is clearly spelt out at the beginning as the narrator excuses himself for starting the story with a dialogue between two characters before introducing Horacio and states directly after that: “no era posible comenzar de otra manera” (“it was not possible to begin otherwise”). In this way, he sensitizes the reader to the possibilities (and limitations) of literature. Holmberg can therefore be considered a predecessor of modern Latin American fantastic literature, in which such metapoetic reflections are typical as can be appreciated for instance in the well-known beginning of Cortázar’s “Las babas del diablo”. 9 See Mesa Gancedo, 2002, p. 190. “Revelando sus ‘resortes’ textuales, el relato acentúa su condición de artefacto y así la analogía con el autómata.” “As it reveals its textual ‘springs’, the story accentuates its condition as an artefact and thus its analogy with the automaton.” 10 See Noiray, Jacques (1982). Le romancier et la machine. L’image de la machine dans le roman français (1850-1900). II: Jules Verne, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. Paris: Corti, p. 277.

Artificial human beings and the power of literature

The android at the center of Villier’s text, comparable to the robots in Holmberg’s “Horacio Kalibang o las autómatas”, proves to be an ideal example for the emergence of a medial body “understood as a transitional environment between fiction and faction, where faction shall refer to a form of imaginary that joins both fictional and factual elements.”11. Based on recent scientific discoveries (in Villiers’ case, for example, the invention of the phonograph), an android allows for the integration of aspects of the empirical world that are combined with poetic imagination.12 The case of Villiers, and of Holmberg as well, is so interesting because this combination of real and imaginary elements in the respective automata can be regarded as a fictional attempt to fight factual developments. For if in the first place the android seems to be a fascinating materialization of scientific currents of its time, it proves later on to be a means of ridiculing science and displaying the potential of art. I will now explain in more detail how the appearance of the woman-robot in Villiers’ text allows for deep ref lections of the medium within which it is used, namely literature. Characters in a fictional literary work are necessarily artificial and for this reason the integration of artificial creatures as robots or cyborgs in a narrative text can be considered a deliberate duplication—a method which is often used by authors for specific metaliterary purposes. Daniel Mesa Gancedo has pointed this out masterfully in his study Extraños semejantes where he states that, “la presencia de personajes artificiales suele incidir en el grado de conciencia metaliteraria que el relato ofrece” (“the presence of artificial creatures usually affects the level of metaliterary awareness that the story offers”).13 Such a presence can be found permanently in Villiers’ L’Eve future, the robot being the central theme of the text, what favors an extensive metaliterary interpretation, making the novel, above all, a plea for the possibilities of literature (and art in general) and a plea against its use for scientific currents of the author’s time. Before defending this thesis, I would like to brief ly recall the novel’s plot in order to establish a basis for the following remarks. One evening, young English Lord Ewald comes to the laboratory of his old friend, the American inventor Edison, and threatens to kill himself because of a tragic love affair. He is in love with Alicia Clary, a woman whose physical perfection is paired by an extremely mundane soul, as Lord Ewald deplores (p. 85 et seq.):

11 See Denisa Butnaru’s Introduction in this volume. 12 Thanks especially to this combination that blurs the border between science-fiction and science-fact, the android can be conceived as an example of faction, the latter being defined as “[a] form of imaginary in which fictional elements affect factual states and sometimes are materialized as concrete real entities.” (ibid.) 13 Mesa Gancedo, 2002, p. 14.



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[L]a non-correspondance du physique et de l’intellectuel s’accusait constamment et dans des proportions paradoxales. […] A l’extérieure—et du front aux pieds—une sorte de Vénus Anadyomène: au-dedans, une personnalité tout à fait ÉtrangÈre à ce corps. Imaginez ce semblant de conception réalisé: une Déesse bourgeoise. [T]he non-correspondence of the physical and the intellectual made itself felt constantly, and in the proportions of a paradoxe. […] From the outside, and from the brow to the feet, a sort of Venus Anadyomene; within, a personality absolutely Foreign to this body. Imagine, if you will, this abstraction brought to life: a bourgeois Goddess.14 The citation’s last word has a deep significance as Alicia’s inner life is conceived as an image of the bourgeois class par excellence, “bourgeois” bearing heavy negative connotations in the understanding of both the character Lord Ewald and of the author Villiers.15 Thus, Alicia is completely incompatible with the romantic Ewald, a fact that dooms him to suicide because he thinks it is his fate to love only once (“de n’aimer qu’une fois”, p. 104). Edison proposes a solution that surprises both the English lord and the reader: Within three weeks he will build a robot which will not only be indistinguishable from Alicia concerning the exterior but which will also possess an inner life that matches its perfect exterior (p. 108): […] dans vingt et un jours, Miss Alicia Clary vous apparaîtra, non-seulement transfigurée, non-seulement de la ‘compagnie’ la plus enchanteresse, non seulement d’une élévation d’esprit des plus augustes, mais revêtue d’une sorte d’immortalité.—Enfin cette sotte éblouissante sera non plus une femme, mais un ange: non plus une maîtresse, mais une amante ; non plus la Réalité, mais l’IDÉAL.16 14 All translations from Villiers’ novel according to: Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Tomorrow’s Eve, transl. by Robert Martin Adams, Champaign (IL): Illinois University Press, 2001. 15 See Raitt, Alan (1986). Villiers de l’Isle-Adam et le mouvement symboliste, Paris: Corti. “Peu d’écrivains ont monté des attaques aussi acerbes et aussi fréquentes [contre le bourgeois] que celles de Villiers. Qu’il s’agisse bien d’une campagne concertée, Villiers lui-même s’en félicite dès 1866 dans une lettre à Mallarmé: ‘Le fait est que je ferai du bourgeois, si Dieu me prête vie, ce que Voltaire a fait des ‘cléricaux’, Rousseau des gentilshommes et Molière des médecins.’ Et cette campagne a duré jusqu’á la fin de sa vie.” “Only few writers mounted so sharp and frequent attacks [against the bourgeois] as Villiers. Villiers himself declares in 1866 in a letter to Mallarmé that it is a concerted campaign: ‘If God gives me the necessary life, I will attack the bourgeois as Voltaire did with the clerics, Rousseau with the nobles and Molière with the doctors.’ And this campaign lasted till the end of his life.” 16 In this quotation one can see again the correlation of machine and text that is at the heart of this contribution: Edison uses words like “immortalité” or “transfigurée” to describe the robot he will conceive—and these are words often associated with literature, which points out that the creation of the android carries deep self-reflexive connotations.

Artificial human beings and the power of literature

[…] twenty-one days from today, Miss Alicia Clary will appear before you, not simply transfigured, not just made the most enchanting of companions, nor merely lifted to the most sublime level of spirituality, but actually endowed with a sort of immortality. In a word, the present gorgeous little fool will no longer be a woman, but an angel; no longer a mistress but a lover; no longer reality, but the Ideal! Edison’s claim to realize nothing less than an ideal is additionally underlined by the name chosen for the robot: Hadaly—the Persian word for “ideal”.17 When the android is finished, Ewald meets it by chance and thinks that he is in front of Alicia, but he is utterly amazed by her fascinating conversation. He is so delighted that he kisses her instinctively still not realizing that he is touching a robot. It is only when Hadaly says to him: “Ami, ne me reconnais-tu pas? Je suis Hadaly” (“Dear friend, don’t you recognize me? I am Hadaly”, p. 306) that he realizes the truth. Apart from this coup de theatre, that also surprises the reader, this first—and also last—encounter between Ewald and Hadaly is of capital importance, because Hadaly does not utter the sentences recorded in her phonographs before but formulates her own personal thoughts. Hence it becomes clear that the machine is not animated by Edison’s technical gadgets, but by Sowana, a spirit whom the American inventor had consulted several times during the construction of the robot. Immediately after this central encounter, Hadaly is switched off and put in a coffin-like box in which Lord Ewald wants to take her to his home. However, shortly after their departure Edison receives the news that the ship with Lord Ewald and Hadaly as well as Alicia Clary aboard has sunken. In this accident, provoked by an “unknown cause” (“une cause inconnue”, p. 347), Alicia is killed and Hadaly’s coffin falls into the sea; despite superhuman efforts, Lord Ewald is unable to prevent her sinking to the ground. Ewald writes a very short telegram to Edison, commenting the loss of the two women as follows: “Ami, c’est de Hadaly seule que je suis inconsolable—et je ne prends le deuil que de cette ombre.— Adieu.” (“My friend, only the loss of Hadaly leaves me inconsolable—I grieve only for that shade. Farewell.”, p. 348) I will now proceed to prove my thesis that, in his novel, Villiers uses the metapoetic aspect to react against scientific currents of his epoch. He attacks positivism and naturalism, which gained so much importance in the France of his time, and stresses at the same time the strength of literature. He stages a literary reaction, which is especially important because the new discursive currents he attacks seemed to threaten literature by infiltrating it as is visible, above all, in naturalism. 17 See Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Auguste de (1993). L’Eve future. Alan Raitt (Ed.). Paris: Gallimard, p. 144. “Le nom de Hadaly est gravé en ces mêmes lettres iraniennes où il signifie l’IDÉAL.” “[…] bearing the name Hadaly in the identical letters which in Iranian signify the Ideal.”



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2.1 A reaction against Naturalism: Ironic dismantlement of a scientific experiment As is well known, naturalism combines literature and natural science and is related to positivist thinking by its conviction that everything can be depicted as explainable and deducible thanks to exact observation and analysis. This conviction received its theoretical basis in 1880 in Emile Zola’s conception of the roman experimental. Here literature is understood as a sort of scientific means of observation.18 Villiers rejects such a position and advocates a literature completely independent from these notions. In this respect, it is of crucial importance that an experiment is at the centre of L’Eve future. Several researchers have pointed out that Villiers establishes, in his novel, an “experimentelle Versuchsanordnung”.19 This “experimental arrangement” will be treated in the following analysis not only as a reaction to scientific discourses of his time,20 but even more as an inner literary reaction to Zola and the doctrine of naturalism that transfers the “méthode expérimentale”21 to literature. This dimension manifests itself already in the fact that almost the entire plot is situated in the classic environment of scientific experiments: the laboratory. The novel is divided into six parts with parts three to five taking place completely in Edison’s laboratory. Moreover, the protagonist is a classic representative of the experimental method, namely a natural scientist—and that is not all: He is the natural scientist of his epoch, Thomas Alva Edison, who represents more than anyone else the progress of science at the end of the nineteenth century. For this reason, it is especially interesting to see how Villiers deliberately deconstructs Edison’s experiment and the scientific pretention of making predictions. Before proving this in detail, one can add that the overcoming of the natural sciences by other 18 Zola sees this new literary movement as a necessary development due to the progress in the natural sciences in the nineteenth century: “le roman expérimental est une conséquence de l’évolution scientifique du siècle” (“the experimental novel is a consequence of the scientific evolution of the century”, Zola, Emile (1905). Le roman expérimental. Paris: Fasquelle, p. 22.) 19 See Ortner, Anne (2012). Das lebendige Kunstwerk und seine technische Beseelung. Re-Animation und Experiment in Villiers de l’Isle-Adams L’Eve Future. In Anika, Höppner, Jana Mangold, & Ulrike Hanstein (Eds.), Re-Animationen. Szenen des Auf- und Ablebens in Kunst, Literatur und Geschichtsschreibung (pp. 115-134). Köln: Böhlau, p. 120. Ortner uses the term several times and states as well that the creation of the artificial woman is a “zeittypische experimentelle Anordnung” (“an experimental arrangement typical for this period of time” p. 117). 20 Anne Ortner focusses on this reaction to scientific discourses and my contribution intends to complement her interesting views by highlighting Villiers’ inner literary reaction. 21 Zola, 1905, p. 1. “Dans mes études littéraires, j’ai souvent parlé de la méthode expérimentale appliquée au roman et au drame.” (“In my literary essays I have often spoken of the application of the experimental method to the novel and to the drama.”).

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concepts is cautiously prepared because both the laboratory and the scientist are associated with references that bear little relation to the positive sciences. For instance, Villiers blurs the American inventor with a magician as he indicates in his prologue “[…] le héros de ce livre est, avant tout, le ‘sorcier de Menlo Park’, etc.— et non M. l’ingénieur Edison, notre contemporain.” (“[…] the hero of this book is above all ‘The Sorcerer of Menlo Park’, and so forth—and not the engineer, Mr. Edison, our contemporary.”, p. 37) This suggests a blending of the scientific discourse with a fantastic one right from the beginning. This mixture of literary modes is reinforced by the description of Edison’s laboratory, which in many respects recalls a medieval alchemist’s chamber.22 Furthermore, it is no accident that the laboratory is located underground. In the novel, Edison’s attempt to create the perfect woman and explain this creation afterwards fails completely, which is shown on two different levels. First, the (natural) scientific diction is extensively ridiculed: The entire fifth part of the novel is almost exclusively filled with Edison’s explanations of how the artificial woman is made, her technical properties, and her mode of functioning. These explanations form a unique parody of scientific discourse, as the following excerpt describing the android’s balance shows (pp. 237-239): Les deux hanches de Hadaly sont celles de la Diane chasseresse!—Mais leurs cavités d’argent contiennent ces deux buires vasculaires, en platine, dont je vous spécifierai tout à l’heure l’utilité. Les bords, bien que glissants, sont d’une quasi-adhérence aux parois de ces cavités iliaques, à cause de leur forme sinueuse. Les fonds de ces récipients—dont l’évasement supérieur est de la forme de ces parois—se terminent en cônes rectangulaires, lesquels sont eux-mêmes inclinés en bas, l’un vers l’autre sous tendant ainsi un angle de quarante-cinq degrés par rapport au niveau de leur hauteur. Ainsi les deux pointes de ces vases, si elles se prolongeaient, se joindraient, entre les jambes, juste à la hauteur des genoux de l’Andréide. Ces deux pointes forment, par conséquent, le fictif sommet renversé d’un rectangle dont l’hypoténuse serait une horizontale imaginaire coupant le torse en deux. […] Au centre du disque supérieur qui clôt hermétiquement chacun de ces récipients, est rivée l’extrémité d’une sorte d’arc, également d’un acier très pur, très sensible, très puissant. L’autre extrémité est fixée et très fortement soudée à la partie supérieure de la cavité d’argent de la hanche, qui est la prison, PRESQUE adhérente seulement, de ces deux appareils. Cet arc est non seulement tendu par le poids spécifique du vif-argent, vingt-cinq livres, mais encore est forcé, dans sa tension, du poids d’UN SEUL CENTIMÈTRE de mercure de plus que n’en représente le niveau de chaque buire. […] 22 See Noiray, 1982, p. 351.



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The two thighs of Hadaly are those of Diana the huntress! but their silvery interiors contain these two platinum cells, the function of which I will explain in a moment. Their surfaces, though polished, are held in place by the wall of the iliac cavities because of their irregular shape. These cells, shaped above to conform to the iliac walls, are shaped below into rectangular cones inclined towards one another to form an angle of forty-five degrees to the vertical. The two points of these cells, if they were extended further, would meet at a point between the legs, just about the level of the Android’s knees. These two lines form, accordingly, the imaginary inverted apex of a triangle, the hypotenuse of which would be an imaginary horizontal cutting the torso into two. […] At the center of the upper disc which hermetically seals each of the cells is fastened the end of a sort of arc, forged of very pure, very sensitive, and very powerful steel. The other end is attached very solidly to the upper part of that silver cavity within the thigh which is the holder of the two cells, though they are by no means solidly attached to it. This arc not only is held down by the weight of the quicksilver, which is twenty-five pounds, but is forced into the place by the weight of a single extra centimeter of mercury above the inner level of each cell. […] Without any doubt, neither Lord Ewald nor even a very well-tempered reader will follow these explanations for a longer period—and this is only one example of many.23 These explanations link this text to others written by authors who deliberately chose to overcome the limits of classical narration.24 In his study on “eccentric stories” (“récits excentriques”), Daniel Sangsue points out that authors writing these types of narratives tend to use specific forms of descriptions: La description met en péril les impératifs classiques de la totalité (elle s’intéresse aux détails), de la lisibilité (elle utilise souvent un lexique technique obscur pour le lecteur) et de l‘ensembl’ du texte (elle peut s’amplifier à l’infini au détriment de ses autres composants).25 The description endangers the classic imperatives of totality (for it foregrounds the details), of legibility (for it often uses a technical vocabulary dubious for the reader), and of the ‘ensemble’ of the text (for it can extend to the infinite at the expense of its other components).

23 Such a caricature of the language of science is also present in “Horacio Kalibang”, though only in a few fragments. Villiers, on the contrary, uses this means intensely throughout his novel. 24 Villiers clearly aims at a “contestation du Romanesque” (“contestation of the Novelistic”) as authors such as Théophile Gautier or Charles Nodier. See for further details Sangsue, Daniel (1987). Le Récit excentrique: Gautier, de Maistre, Nerval, Nodier. Paris: Corti., p. 9. 25 Ibid., p. 63.

Artificial human beings and the power of literature

It is exactly this kind of description that Villiers’ Edison uses in the novel. However, this is only one side of the author’s attacks on the scientific discourse of his age for this conscious exaggeration of technical speech to the point of the absurd is complemented in other fragments of the novel by a decidedly poetic language, characterized by Alain Raitt as follows: “un style qui penche vers le rare et le précieux, qui a une musique toute particulière, qui abhorre les clichés et les lieux-communs, qui favorise les archaïsmes et les mots rares.”26 (“a style which tends to the rare and the precious, which has a very specific music, which disdains the clichés and stereotypes, which favours archaisms and rare words”). Consequently, one can state a sort of a pincer attack on the scientific language, which is shown as being overly complicated and is, moreover, contrasted to a poetic language that lets it seem additionally inferior. Furthermore, Edison’s endless explanations that seem to be so accurate do not provide a better understanding of how the robot functions. On the contrary, they prevent it: the longer Edison explicates, the more inexplicable Hadaly seems. Here one can perceive another severe criticism of rationalism combined with a metapoetic device for the supposed rationalism displayed in Edison’s elucidations leads to the emergence of a completely irrational creature that is only possible thanks to fantasy—a category that lies in art, beyond the realm of science. Hence, the dimension of faction, this “form of imaginary that joins both fictional and factual elements”27 that is our central topic in this book, becomes particularly obvious. Edison repeatedly explains his findings and inventions in the real world, but the combination of these factual elements results in a being that is a classic representative of fiction, which can only “exist” in a text and in the reader’s mind. This makes Hadaly a perfect example for the play between fiction and fact and, thus, for the category of faction in literature. Moreover, Edison pronounces this endless f lood of technical details with “le froid de la Science” (“the icy chill of Science”, p. 214), resulting in a striking contrast between these sober scientific assertions and the wonder of life, which should be its result. In the end, the question is if these explanations should explain anything at all or only cause amusement and even laughter. This is what Villiers hints at when noting Ewald’s reaction to the previously mentioned explanations about the robot’s balance: “Tout lui sembla, pendant un fort moment, aussi effrayant qu’absurde, de sorte que, sans doute pour la première fois de sa vie, il eut un véritable accès de fou rire.”28 (“For a long moment everything seemed to him as terrifying as

26 Raitt, 1986, p. 144. 27 See Denisa Butnaru’s Introduction in this volume. 28 Another comment made by Ewald about all of the explanations: “jusqu’au rire que devaient nécessairement entraîner des explications aussi détaillées, aussi hostiles à toute illusion.” (“to



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it was absurd, so that, probably for the first time in his life, he was overcome by a fit of convulsive laughter.”, p. 241) In any case, the reader is forced to smile because all of the technical monologues are reduced to absurdity in the course of actions in the novel: up to its very end, Edison accurately explains how the robot should work, but when Hadaly finally appears, she functions completely differently. She is not controlled by his incredible technical effort but by the supernatural being Sowana who does not need any technological device to give Hadaly life. And there is more: Sowana is able to give real life to the automaton, as Hadaly’s encounter with Ewald proves, whereas the robot conceived by Edison would not have been more than a simple puppet. Consequently, the rational, which in any case had lost much of its force as Edison was not able to explain anything with his endless explanations, is definitively supplanted by the magic, the supernatural, and the irrational. Moreover, Sowana reveals to Ewald that she has manipulated Edison and used him for her own purposes: “Je m’appelais en la pensée de qui me créait, de sorte qu’en croyant seulement agir de lui-même il m’obéissait aussi obscurément.” (“I called myself into existence in the thought of him who created me, so that while he thought he was acting of his own accord, he was also deeply, darkly obedient to me.”, p. 315) Thus it was not Edison who had the idea to create the android, but Sowana who planted this idea in his mind. The scientist, who arrogantly thought to control everything, was only an instrument of a higher order. Instead of dominating foreign phenomena and being a “master”, he is completely overtaken by a foreign will. This is a decided attack against the program of naturalism, since the aim of Zola’s “méthode expérimentale”—namely “étudier les phénomènes pour s’en rendre maître” (“to study phenomena in order to become their master”)29— is transformed into its absolute antipode. The result of this experiment that has seemingly begun under ideal conditions has to be regarded as a counter-program to naturalism, a counter-program that Villiers presents in a highly ironic way.30 the point of daring to face that laughter which is sure to greet explanations so detailed and so hostile to every illusion.”, p. 265). 29 Zola, 1905, p. 22. Zola quotes here Claude Bernard: “Tout le problème expérimental se réduit à ceci: prévoir et diriger les phénomènes.” (“‘The whole experimental problem can be reduced to this: predict and direct the phenomena.’” ) Villiers fully discredits this conviction. 30 Irony reaches an unprecedented intensity in L’Eve future as no one has expressed better than Mallarmé, who declared that Villiers has led “l’ironie jusqu’à une page cime, où l’esprit chancelle.” (“irony to a peak, where the mind tumbles”; Mallarmé quoted by Alan Raitt, 1986, p. 90). Such a harsh ironic attack against his time can also be seen in Villiers’ Contes cruels (1883), a collection of texts having a strong relationship to L’Eve future (see Kimber, Gerri (2005). Hidden Assassin: Subverting the Bourgeois in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s Contes cruels. French Studies E-journal 1, 1-9). Thus, one can state that irony is “l’arme la plus efficace de [Villiers] dans son combat contre le siècle” (“the most efficient weapon in Villiers’ fight against his century”; Noiray, 1982, p. 252). For

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2.2 A reaction against Positivism: Fantastic literature The end of the novel with the unexpected control of the android by Sowana brings a sudden irruption of the supernatural in the hitherto (in spite of the bizarre molding of the laboratory) rather realistic seeming world. Therefore L’Eve future forms part of the fantastic literature, the main characteristic of which is, as Tzvetan Todorov notes, the intrusion of a presumably unexplainable fact into our world.31 Such an intrusion takes place also in “Horacio Kalibang” where Horacio’s movements make the mayor say “Esto está fuera de todas las leyes físicas” (“This is beyond physical laws”, p. 22), which is almost the definition of Todorov who states that the fantastic emerges then when the laws of natural sciences do not seem to be valid anymore.32 The mayor’s investigation leads to the discovery that Horacio is a robot, a fact commented on by the narrator as follows: “El velo de la incertidumbre había desaparecido de su semblante.” (“The veil of uncertainty had disappeared from his appearance”, p. 29). The term “incertidumbre” appears here, which is central to Todorov’s theory of fantastic literature.33 Moreover, an ironic dimension is present that underlines the similarity of Holmberg’s short story to Villiers’ novel since, like Edison’s triumph, the mayor’s victory is only a temporary one: Later on his doubts about his surrounding people will be greater than ever. In Holmberg’s cuento this doubt, which is typical for the fantastic genre,34 is also created by the elaborate narrative construction, since the final letter reveals that the narrator Fritz, who seemed to be an ordinary human being witnessing the events he recounts, is himself an automaton, creating a final twist that com-

a comparable use of irony in Holmberg’s story, especially in the final passages, see Menczel, Gabriella (2014). La advertencia de los autómatas de Eduardo L. Holmberg: El simulacro artificial en Argentina. Verbum. Analecta Neolatina 1/2, 216-222, p. 221. 31 See Todorov, Tzvetan (1970). Introduction à la littérature fantastique. Paris: Seuil, p. 29. “Dans un monde qui est bien le nôtre, celui que nous connaissons, sans diables, sylphides, ni vampires, se produit un événement qui ne peut s’expliquer par les lois de ce même monde familier.” “In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world.” 32 See the definition given above (“an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world”). This idea of the unexplainable is also being treated right at the story’s beginning as Hermann points out that, “existen extraños fenómenos, que la ciencia humana no explica, y que tal vez podrá nunca explicar.” (“there exist strange phenomena, which human science does not explain now and maybe will never be able to explain.”) 33 See Todorov, 1970, p. 29: “Le fantastique occupe le temps de cette incertitude.” “The fantastic occupies the duration of that uncertainty.” 34 See ibid., p. 37 “il faut que le texte oblige le lecteur […] à hésiter entre une explication naturelle et une explication surnaturelle des événements évoqués.” (“the text must force the reader […] to hesitate between a natural and a supernatural explanation of the events described.”)



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plicates the text considerably.35 The artifice is no longer only an element of the plot, resulting in a factional narrative, where fictional elements irrupt in the real world, but is also revealed as the narrative voice, which directs the reader’s attention even more so to the properties of the fictional narrative that embeds the factional story. Moreover, this final twist intensifies the blurring of the human and the technological, central in Holmberg’s story, and, above all, casts serious doubt on the statements of its narrator, evoking for instance the question of the robots’ consciousness. The narrator’s credibility is thereby damaged in a highly effective way.36 As Uwe Durst suggests, extending Todorov’s ref lections, this augments the fantastic dimension, since “the destabilisation of the narrator is the basis of fantastic literature”.37 Coming back to L’Eve future, this novel can be ranged in Todorov’s category of the ‘fantastique-merveilleux’.38 Despite the lack of safe information about Sowana’s real nature and about how she gives life to Hadaly, the reader can only opt for possibilities that contradict in equal measure the laws of nature. Sowana, who in the novel’s beginning lives in Mrs Anderson’s comatose body, might be the ghostly soul of the lifeless woman or a being from another world that uses Mrs Anderson and later Hadaly as hosts.39 In both cases, the known scientific laws cannot account for her existence and Edison, who is a typical representative of the nineteenth-century materialistic current, “un être qui ne connaît que les lois naturelles” (“a being who only knows natural laws”),40 is confronted with an inexplicable incident that strongly contradicts his rational explanations. This form of fantastic literature, which Villiers also uses in his short stories,41 serves to undermine ideas of positivism. Consequently, L’Eve future cannot be read only as an attack against the intrusion of positivism into literature as it happens in naturalism, but also against positivism itself. The fantastic genre can be considered in general as a deliberate counter-movement to positivism and to the sci-

35 For the use of such final twists in current Argentinean films see Schlickers, “La narración perturbadora en el cine argentino del siglo XXI“. 36 See also Mesa Gancedo, 2002, p. 177 et seq. 37 Durst, Theorie der phantastischen Literatur, p. 198: “die Destabilisierung des Erzählers […] ist die Basis phantastischer Literatur.” 38 See Todorov, 1970, p. 57: “des récits qui se présentent comme fantastiques et se terminent par une acceptation du surnaturel” (“narratives that are presented as fantastic and that end with an acceptance of the supernatural”). 39 See also Alkon, Paul K. (1987). Origins of futuristic fiction. Athens, GA: Georgia UP, p. 85 et seq. 40 See Todorov, 1970, p. 29: “Le fantastique, c’est l’hésitation éprouvée par un être qui ne connaît que les lois naturelles, face à un événement en apparence surnaturel.” (“The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event”) 41 Particularly palpable in Véra for example.

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entific discourse of the nineteenth century.42 Villiers ridicules, in a particularly sharp manner, the conviction of “science, d’où prévoyance”43 (“from science comes prevision”) at the basis of positivism: Edison’s numerous explanations show a great understanding of “science”. However, the novel’s end clearly shows that this does by no means result in “prévoyance”, the American inventor being unable to foresee the final result of his experiment. It is even worse: he does not even understand what is going on. The hostility against positivism is openly affirmed in the text as one of the chapters’ epigraphs reads: “Le positivisme consiste à oublier, comme inutile, cette inconditionnelle et seule vérité,—que la ligne qui nous passe sous le nez n’a ni commencement ni fin.” (“Positivism consists of forgetting as useless this absolute and unique truth—that a straight line passing under our nose has neither beginning nor end.”)44 This declaration, which is laconically attributed to “quelqu’un”, is Villiers’ own.45 In his novel, he wants to show how this “line”, that he considers being shortened by his epoch and especially by the positivist attitude to refuse any metaphysical stance,46 can be extended once more. Whereas “la science moderne [est] toute entière tournée vers l’exploration minutieuse et l’exploitation sans scrupule d’une 42 See Alazraki, Jaime (1983). En busca del unicornio: Los cuentos de Julio Cortázar. Elementos para una poética de lo neofantástico. Madrid: Gredos, p. 33. “La literatura fantástica del siglo XIX [… es] una suerte de desafío a la infalibilidad de las leyes postuladas por la ciencia. Es un mentís a esas leyes, una reacción al racionalismo.” (“The fantastic literature of the 19th century is a sort of challenging the infallibility of the laws postulated by science. It is a denial of these laws, a reaction against rationalism.”). See also Todorov, 1970, p. 176. “la littérature fantastique n’est rien d’autre que la mauvaise conscience de ce XIXe siècle positiviste.” (“the fantastic literature is nothing else than the bad conscience of this positivist 19th century.)” 43 Comte, Auguste (1936). Cours de philosophie positive. 1re et 2e Leçon. Marius Daillie (Ed.). Paris: Larousse, p. 61. See also Comte, Auguste (1842), Discours sur l’esprit positif. Suivi de cinq documents annexes, Jean-Marie Tremblay (Ed.), p. 13. Retrieved from Comte_auguste/discours_esprit_positif/Discours_esprit_positif.pdf. “Ainsi, le véritable esprit positif consiste surtout à voir pour prévoir, à étudier ce qui est afin d’en conclure ce qui sera, d’après le dogme général de l’invariabilité des lois naturelles. Ce principe fondamentale de toute la philosophie positive […].” “Thus, the real positive spirit consist first of all in seeing in order to foresee, in studying what is in order to conclude what will be, according to the general dogma of the invariety of natural laws. This fundamental principle of the whole positive philosophy […].” 44 Villiers, 1993, p. 312 (emphasis in the original). 45 See the note by Alan Raitt, 1986, p. 433. 46  See Comte, 1936, p. 29 (italics in the original): “[…] en considérant comme absolument inaccessible et vide de sens pour nous la recherche de ce qu’on appelle les causes, soit premières, soit finales.” (“considering as completely inaccessible and senseless for us the investigation of what is called the causes, the first as well as the last”), and Comte, 1843, p. 11. “[N]os recherches positives doivent essentiellement se réduire, en tous genres, à l’appréciation systématique de ce qui est, en renonçant à en découvrir la première origine et la destination finale.” (“Our positive



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nature finie” (“modern science is completely absorbed by the minute exploration and the reckless exploitation of a finite nature”), as Philippe Sabot puts it,47 Villiers intends to refuse this self-inf licted finiteness and restore the mysteries to the world. This becomes particularly clear in the central chapter “Luttes avec l’ange”, initiated by the epigraph quoted above. Here Sowana (in Hadaly’s body) gives an impression of the real essence of things, which is what makes it so important that this chapter ends with the word “infini”, referring explicitly to the quoted epigraph.48 The novel’s last sentence is also very important for this dimension: Et, songeur attristé, se perdant en des impressions inconnues, ses yeux s’étant reportés au dehors, sur la nuit, par la croisée ouverte, il [Edison] écouta, pendant quelque temps, l’indifférent vent de l’hiver qui entre-choquait les branches noires,—puis son regard s’étant levé, enfin, vers les vieilles sphères lumineuses qui brûlaient, impassibles, entre les lourds nuages et sillonnaient, à l’infini, l’inconcevable mystère des cieux, il frissonna,—de froid, sans doute,—en silence. And the melancholy dreamer, losing himself in unknown thoughts, lifted his eyes to look through the open window, out into the night. There for some time he listened to the indifferent winds of winter, whistling and howling through the bare branches—then, raising his eyes even higher toward the ancient luminous spheres which still shone, unmoved, through the gaps in the heavy clouds, and sent their glints forever through the infinite, inconceivable mystery of the heavens, he shivered—no doubt, from the cold—in utter silence. Firstly, one cannot help but highlight that the novel’s last word is “silence”. From the beginning of the text onwards, Edison is constantly characterized by his striving to grab all possible acoustic information, and his confrontation with impenetrable silence in the end makes manifest his definitive defeat. Secondly, Edison’s looking at the sky indicates that he is conscious that a higher power has caused the final accident destroying the android whose creation represented a sacrilege, as he very well knew.49 This clearly shows a return of transcendence that we have research must essentially be reduced, in all matters, to the systematic appreciation of what is, renouncing to discover its origin and final destiny.”) 47 Sabot, 2006. 48 Villiers, 1993, p. 314. Villiers’ important influence on French symbolists is not least due to the fact that his texts show—contrary to the materialist spirit of his time—a way to discover a transcendent world behind the empirical one (see Raitt, 1986, p. 163). 49 See ibid., p. 127 “Entreprendre la création d’un tel être […] ce serait tenter … Dieu.” (“To undertake the making of such a creature would be […] like tempting … God.”)

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already observed at the end of Holmberg’s story. The “shiver” Edison feels is not an effect of cold, as the narrator—with obvious naiveté—states, but due to a shuddering in view of an invisible, enormously powerful might. Thus, in L’Eve future’s ending Villiers’ “constant quest for transcendence” of which John Anzalone speaks becomes obvious.50 Villiers’ reaction to the loss of transcendence he observes is a genuinely literary one, as I will develop further in the next paragraph. For such a reaction the fantastic genre is particularly appropriate: The fantastic is only possible within the realm of literature (or art in general) and therefore already a specific means to oppose scientific or rationalistic discourses. One can also recall here Jorge Luis Borges’ well-known statement that all literature is necessarily fantastic.51 Although this might seem an exaggeration (and is certainly due to Borges’ particular thoughts about the nature of literature), one could question whether there is not indeed a strong connection between literature and the fantastic as good literature constantly creates doubts in the readers’ minds. Readers need to be stimulated to keep on reading, and doubts about the plot’s continuation, the “real” personality of the characters, and so on, prove an effective means to guarantee continuous reading. So doubts are not only central in fantastic literature, but they are a substantive factor for fictional narration in general.52

2.3 An artificial woman for metapoetic reasons: A reaction of literature The previous considerations hence show that Villiers attacks orientations that seem to threaten the independence of literature in his time. He fights against the merging between literature and science, author and scientist, as proposed by positivism and realized in naturalism.53 Similarly, he also combats the use of litera50 Anzalone, John (1983). Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and the Gnostic tradition. The French Review 57, 2027, p. 21. 51 Borges, Jorge Luis (1985). Coloquio. In Literatura fantástica (Anthology of the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo), (pp.13-36). Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, p. 18. “Podría decirse que la literatura fantástica es casi tautológica, pero toda literatura es fantástica.” (“One could say that fantastic literature is almost tautological, but all literature is fantastic.”) 52 The importance of doubts for good narrations is repeatedly considered in the works of Javier Marías, who reflects intensely on the possibilities and limitations of narration. See in particular his novel Los enamoramientos (2011). 53 See Fernández & Pígoli, 2000, p. 10 “Un siglo de ciencia ficción argentina”: “El comienzo del siglo XX unió reiteradas veces la figura del escritor con la del científico. Esta imagen, propia del positivismo, se mueve en la idea de que el presente ya no tiene misterios […]” “The beginning of the 20th century combined several times the figure of the writer with that of the scientist. This image, belonging to positivism, is grounded in the idea that the present does not possess any secrets anymore.”



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ture as a means to divulge scientific discoveries in an entertaining manner, as his contemporary Jules Verne does in his Voyages extraordinaires. To achieve these goals, he remains faithful to the realm of literature. That is why it is so important that the experiment of the perfect woman’s creation that fails so dramatically takes place in a text that can be considered an experiment as well. Yet the literary experiment succeeds, precisely because of its sophistication. The complexity of the text reveals thus the strength of a self-conscious literature and its superiority over a literature strongly inf luenced by scientific principles and over science in general. The fact that Villiers wrote almost no poetological texts, a circumstance through which he differs significantly from the naturalists and specifically Zola and his programmatic manifesto of the “roman expérimental”, is also to be understood in this context. Villiers projects a genuinely literary reply to the challenges made up by naturalism and positivism. He does not conceive a theoretical answer to naturalism, but an immanently literary one—this is one decisive dimension of L’Eve future.54 In what is to follow, I will make a last ref lection on the concept of the medial body. As this volume again proves, the choice of medium is crucial for the conveyance of specific aesthetic and/or socio-political aspects in a work of art. This is even truer if a body becomes the central element of the work, as is the case in Villiers’ novel. For the French author, literature proves ideal since all of Edison’s verbal explanations that Villiers integrates in his text are by no means able to evoke a credible android as I have shown above. Thus, he can prove the inadequateness of the scientific discourse whereas an illustration of the android would have been contra-productive. The robot’s place is in the mere verbal sphere to keep it as unimaginable as possible, perfidiously undermining the potential of the technological language to explain anything.55

54 One can consider L’Eve future as a decided counter-program to Zola’s swan song of all non-naturalist novels (Zola, 1905, p. 16 et seq.): “C’est l’investigation scientifique, c’est le raisonnement expérimental qui combat une à une les hypothèses des idéalistes, et qui remplace les romans de pure imagination par les romans d’observation et d’expérimentation.” (“It is scientific investigation; it is experimental reasoning that combats one by one the hypotheses of the idealists and will replace novels of pure imagination by novels of observation and experiment.”) 55 Interestingly, Villiers’ attitude in this respect is similar to that of Kafka with respect to “The Metamorphosis”. Kafka wanted no illustration of the beetle neither in the story nor on its cover; see Alazraki, 1983, p. 37 et seq.

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3. Epilogue: A literary machine that disturbs a totalitarian regime In the twentieth century comparable ref lections on the power of literature intertwined with the description of a sophisticated apparatus can be found in several works of Argentinean authors who may, in this respect, be Holmberg’s and Villiersʼ most important successors.56 Due to reasons of space, I will in the following only give attention to Ricardo Piglia, who uses in 1992, in a completely different extraliterary world, another machine to demonstrate the power of literature to subvert dominant discourses and hold ground against an apparently insurmountable technological world. As in the texts of Holmberg and Villiers,57 in Piglia’s La ciudad ausente a machine modelled on a beloved human being is conceived and metapoetic aspects play a key role once more. The Buenos Aires born author already indicates this with the inventor of his apparatus: Macedonio Fernández, a famous Argentinean author and acknowledged inf luence on Piglia, creates a narrating machine in this text, which can be understood, above all, as an intensive ref lection about narrative and its power.58 However, a clear difference from Holmberg’s text that could already be found in Villiers’ novel consists in the fact that the artificial creature is not a man but a woman—and reasons for this will be discussed at the end of this chapter.

56 A very interesting example is Adolfo Bioy Casaresʼ novel La invención de Morel (1940), in which a refugee is confronted with perfected film-holograms. These artificial creatures again serve self-reflexive purposes as reveals one key passage: The refugee, who first cannot explain the nature of the strange intruders, makes conjectures about their nature and writes in his diary that they are “hombres verdaderos, por lo menos tan verdaderos como yo.” (“real men, at least as real as I am”). However, this “yo” is by no means “verdadero”, but a character in a literary work, thus this commentary renders manifest the fictivity of the novel. Moreover, Bioy Casares has written the short story “El hombre artificial” that does not only take up the idea of producing a perfect human-like robot but contains as well the ironic dimension so central in Villiers’ L’Eve future. Another author from the Río de la Plata who is important for the present discussion is Horacio Quiroga. 57 Villiers’ text is a clear model of Piglia’s novel, who inserts an open homage to Villiers in an interposed story: “La isla” is a narration about the creation of a woman-robot who is only able to utter sentences recorded before, what is Edison’s initial project in L’Eve future. This machine also mirrors the narrating machine in the centre of Piglia’s novel, marking the complex relationship between the main diegetic action, the metadiegetic stories and the intertexts. 58 See Mesa Gancedo, 2002, p. 325. “[La ciudad ausente] constituye un ejemplo singular de relato que integra la representación del sujeto maquinal con una reflexión profunda sobre la complejidad semántico del acto narrativo”. (“[La ciudad ausente] constitutes a unique example of a story that combines the representation of the machine’s topic with a thorough reflection about the semantic complexity of the narrative act.”)



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Piglia’s work is generically modelled on a detective novel as it presents the journalist Junior’s quest to inquire about the narrating machine. Junior does his investigations in a Buenos Aires that cannot be exactly situated temporally, but it is clearly a dystopian version of the real Argentinean capital, characterized by constant surveillance and a climate of fear.59 With the help of several informants, Junior can reconstruct the machine’s history and, in the end, get to know the engineer with whom Macedonio built it. Junior learns that Macedonio created the machine to keep “alive” his wife who died suddenly, connecting her mind to an elaborate apparatus and creating a cyborg whose exact form is never described.60 The machine-woman was initially conceived as a simple translation device. From its very first use, however, it changes the stories put into it, so that Poe’s “William Wilson” is redefined as “Stephen Stevensen”.61 The machine increasingly changes the stories it is supposed to tell and ends up creating its own stories. Thus, similarly to L’Eve future, one finds at the centre of the text a female machine, which recounts completely different things than those intended or expected. Some of the stories produced by the machine are integrated in the novel, and the hierarchy between these stories and the main action is not always clear. What is created is a textual labyrinth ref lecting Junior’s disorientation. These interposed stories need not only be interpreted by the characters but also by the reader, forcing him/her to adopt the role of detective and making him/her a mirror of Junior. The theme of the double is central,62 at different levels and perspectives, and emphasizes the analogy between the whole novel and the narrating machine-woman described in it. This dimension is further reinforced by the fact that the stories the machine recounts ref lect important aspects of the main plot, converting them into mises en abyme. Importantly, the machine’s stories reveal more and more clearly the totalitarian side of the political regime described in the novel, granting the narrating-device a subversive function of fighting the regime, which was one of its initial goals as well: “Nosotros tratamos de construir […] una máquina de defensa femenina contra las experiencias y los experimentos y las mentiras del Estado.”63 (“We tried 59 An unmistakable allusion to the Argentinean military dictatorship of 1976-1983. 60 See Mesa-Gancedo, 2002, p. 326. “La ambigüedad tiñe tanto el relato de los orígenes como la descripción de la forma de la máquina (¿humana o no?).” (“Ambiguity tinges the narrating of the machine’s origins as well as that of its form (human or not?) 61 Obviously, it is no coincidence that the first story the machine receives is one of Poe, underscoring the detective scheme that dominates Piglia’s text. 62 For example, Junior’s real name is Miguel Mac Kensey suggesting a strong parallel to Macedonio. Moreover, both names form an anaphoric consonance with “la máquina”, indicating once again the mentioned analogy between the machine and the text / its fictive characters. 63 Piglia, Ricardo (2013). La ciudad ausente, Barcelona: Anagrama, p. 142. et seq. The engineer Russo, who creates the machine with Macedonio, fled the Nazis to Argentina, a first allusion of his re-

Artificial human beings and the power of literature

to build […] a feminine defence machine against the experiences and the experiments and the lies of the state.”) As the regime cannot turn off the machine that exerts a great inf luence on the people, it locks it away in a museum: “decidieron llevarla [la máquina] al Museo, inventarle un Museo, [...] la exhibieron ahí, en la sala especial, a ver si la podían anular, convertirla en lo que se llama una pieza de museo, un mundo muerto.“ (“they decided to bring it [the machine] to the museum, invent a Museum for it, […] they exhibited it there, in a special hall, in order to see if they could invalidate it, convert it into what is called a museum piece, a dead world.”, p. 145) This might be understood as an attempt to control literature, since the government wants to establish only one truth as any totalitarian regime. The machine, which is a metaphor for literature in general, resists and retains in its stories ambiguities—the main character of all art—that make visible the regime’s contradictions. Despite the government’s efforts, the machine cannot be silenced. Consequently, the novel’s last words are those of the machine “¿Y yo? Yo soy la que cuenta. […] [e]stoy sola al sol, nadie se acerca, nadie viene, pero voy a seguir.” (“And me? I am the one who recounts. […] I am alone, no one approaches, no one comes, but I will continue.”, pp. 158; 168). Analogous to Villiers’ novel, the power of literature is evoked. However, it is important to point out that Piglia’s novel does not only show the power of literature, but of art in general. The machine’s stories are not only read by the characters, but some of them are also shown on screens or heard. Globally, many media fuse in this novel, stressing the potential for narrative in all of them. Moreover, in Piglia’s case this power seems even greater than in the other two texts previously analyzed, because here narration is able to hold ground against a totalitarian regime.64 This political aspect is neither present in Holmberg’s nor in Villiers’ text. Because of the experience of the military dictatorship in his home country, Piglia extends the potential of literature to oppose hegemonic discourses from the inner-literary dimension (Villiers) to the extratextual world. However, to achieve this goal he uses the same literary genre as his predecessors. That is, he does not believe in the efficiency of testimonial literature to fight totalitarian regimes and instead resorts to the fantastic,65 which attacks, almost automatically, a core assistance to dictatorial regimes, resistance that he continues in his new home country. 64 This strong power of literature/art is also hinted at by the fact that the narrating-machine is not built by an engineer alone, as in Holmberg’s and Villiers’ texts, but by an engineer guided by a writer who has the directive ideas. In addition, the dependence of scientists on authors of fiction is explicitly stated: “[…] los científicos les creen a los novelistas (Russo-Macedonio Fernández). Los científicos son grandes lectores de novelas” (“the scientists believe the novelists (Russo-Macedonio Fernández). The scientists are intense readers of novels”, p. 141). 65 See Page, Joanna (2004). Writing as resistance in Ricardo Piglia’s La ciudad ausente. Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81, 343-360, p. 347. “[Piglia] engage[s] critically with the assumptions of the realist



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pect of all dictatorial states. Since doubt is at the center of this genre, it challenges immanently all notions of one-dimensional truths so important for totalitarian systems. Piglia’s novel is an important example for the still too often overseen fact that fantastic literature does not necessarily need to be evasive but can be enormously political. Yet, in Piglia’s text the power of literature is not only positive. La ciudad ausente is a highly ambiguous novel, and this feature becomes manifest especially in the machine’s terrible suffering. This transpires in one of the interposed stories (“Los nudos blancos”), which can be read as a sort of autobiographical story of the machine: A story about a woman who is hospitalized because she thinks she is a machine.66 Her being mistreated there connects this hospital to the totalitarian regime and even more importantly shows that the machine feels great pain, a fact inextricably linked to its/her condition as a narrating-machine.67 And herein might also lie the reason why Piglia combines a woman—and not a man—with his fictitious machine. Since he does not only show the machine’s potential to attack the regime, but also concentrates on its role as a victim, another facet of the narrating-machine that is closely linked to the context of the military totalitarian regime becomes evident: the narrating-machine can also be read as a metaphor for a tortured body that is violently forced to speak. And this body, dehumanized by the torturers and doomed to total passivity, is historically a female body.68 This dimension brings us back to L’Eve future, since creating a passive female body uttering sentences instigated by a male will was Edison’s initial project—and this project is, exactly as other traditional schemata, ironically deconstructed by Villiers: a last example of Villiers’ creative play with literary and cultural traditions, due to which L’Eve future remains still today the central text about artificial human beings. novel, drawing attention to the illusions generated by literary realism and insisting that anti-realist art may be a more appropriate vehicle to access the truth of experience. [...] La ciudad ausente traces a vital role for anti-realist writing in resisting state oppression.” The fantastic dimension of Piglia’s novel is also mirrored in one of the interposed stories, “La nena”, for which Mérimée’s La Venus d’Ille forms the central intertext. 66 See Piglia, 2013, p. 67. “Estaba segura de haber muerto y de que alguien había incorporado su cerebro (a veces decía su alma) a una máquina.” (“She was sure to have died and that someone had incorporated her brain (sometimes she said her soul) to a machine.”) 67 This aspect also makes Macedonio’s decision to change his wife into a machine debatable: was it an act of great love—or one of pure egoism? Did he not only prolong—or even cause—her suffering? See also Page, 2004, p. 350. 68 For this interpretation of Piglia’s novel see Folger, Robert (2013). Der geschundene Körper und die (Ohn-)Macht des Erzählens in Ricardo Piglias La ciudad ausente. In Kurt Hahn, Matthias Hausmann, & Christian Wehr (Eds.), ErzählMacht: Narrative Politiken des Imaginären (pp. 163-182). Würzburg.

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References Primary Sources Bioy Casares, Adolfo (2009). La invención de Morel. El gran serafín. Trinidad Barrera (Ed.). Madrid: Cátedra. Comte, Auguste (1936). Cours de philosophie positive. 1re et 2e Leçon. Marius Daillie (Ed.). Paris: Larousse. Comte, Auguste (1842). Discours sur l’esprit positif. Suivi de cinq documents annexes, Jean-Marie Tremblay (Ed.) Retrieved from siques/Comte_auguste/discours_esprit_positif/Discours_esprit_positif.pdf. Holmberg, Eduardo L. (2000). Horacio Kalibang o las autómatas. In Adriana Fernández & Edgardo Piglio (Eds.), Historias futuras. Antología de la ciencia ficción argentina (p. 15-38). Buenos Aires: Emecé. Piglia, Ricardo (2013). La ciudad ausente, Barcelona: Anagrama. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Auguste de (1983). Contes cruels. Pierre Reboul (Ed.). Paris: Gallimard. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Auguste de (1993). L’Eve future. Alan Raitt (Ed.). Paris: Gallimard. Zola, Emile (1905). Le roman expérimental. Paris: Fasquelle.

Secondary Sources Alazraki, Jaime (1983). En busca del unicornio: Los cuentos de Julio Cortázar. Elementos para una poética de lo neofantástico. Madrid: Gredos. Alkon, Paul K. (1987). Origins of futuristic fiction. Athens, GA: Georgia UP. Altamiranda, Daniel (2004). Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg (1852-1937). In Darrell B. Lockhart (Ed.), Latin American Science Fiction Writers. An A-to-Z Guide (pp. 106108). Westport; London: Greenwood Publishing Group. Anzalone, John (1983). Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and the Gnostic tradition. The French Review 57, 20-27. Borges, Jorge Luis (1985). Coloquio. In Literatura fantástica (Anthology of the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo), (pp.13-36). Madrid: Ediciones Siruela. Butnaru, Denisa (2019). Introduction: Medial Bodies. Fictions, Facts and the Reinvention of Corporeality. In Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction: Reinventing Corporeality. This volume. Durst, Uwe (2007). Theorie der phantastischen Literatur. Berlin: LIT. Fernández, Adriana, Pígoli, Edgardo (2000). Un siglo de ciencia ficción argentina. Panorama del género en nuestro país. In Adriana Fernández, & Edgardo Pígoli



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(Eds.), Historias futuras. Antología de la ciencia ficción argentina (pp. 9-14). Buenos Aires: Emecé. Folger, Robert (2013). Der geschundene Körper und die (Ohn-)Macht des Erzählens in Ricardo Piglias La ciudad ausente. In Kurt Hahn, Matthias Hausmann, & Christian Wehr (Eds.), ErzählMacht: Narrative Politiken des Imaginären (pp. 163-182). Würzburg. Kimber, Gerri (2005). Hidden Assassin: Subverting the Bourgeois in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s Contes cruels. French Studies E-journal 1, 1-9. Retrieved from http:// Gerry%20Kimber%29.pdf. Mesa Gancedo, Daniel (2002). Extraños semejantes. El personaje artificial y el artefacto narrativo en la literatura hispanoamericana. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza. Menczel, Gabriella (2014). La advertencia de los autómatas de Eduardo L. Holmberg: El simulacro artificial en Argentina. Verbum. Analecta Neolatina 1/2, 216222. Noiray, Jacques (1982). Le romancier et la machine. L’image de la machine dans le roman français (1850-1900). II: Jules Verne, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. Paris: Corti. Ortner, Anne (2012). Das lebendige Kunstwerk und seine technische Beseelung. Re-Animation und Experiment in Villiers de l’Isle-Adams L’Eve Future. In Anika, Höppner, Jana Mangold, & Ulrike Hanstein (Eds.), Re-Animationen. Szenen des Auf- und Ablebens in Kunst, Literatur und Geschichtsschreibung (pp. 115-134). Köln: Böhlau. Page, Joanna (2004). Writing as resistance in Ricardo Piglia’s La ciudad ausente. Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81, 343-360. Raitt, Alan (1986). Villiers de l’Isle-Adam et le mouvement symboliste, Paris: Corti. Sabot, Philippe (2006). Les deux visages de la science. Réf lexions à partir de l’œuvre d’Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. Methodos 6, Retrieved from http:// Salto, Garciela Nélida (1997). Otro Calibán: Horacio Kalibang o los autómatas. Casa de las Américas 38, 32-39. Sangsue, Daniel (1987). Le Récit excentrique: Gautier, de Maistre, Nerval, Nodier. Paris: Corti. Schlickers, Sabine (2012). La narración perturbadora en el cine argentino del siglo XXI. In Wolfgang Bongers (Ed.), Prismas del cine latinoamericano (pp. 277-302). Santiago de Chile: Cuarto Propio. Todorov, Tzvetan (1970). Introduction à la littérature fantastique. Paris: Seuil.

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation: From The Water-Babies to Real Humans 1 Ursula Kluwick In a scene to which I return in detail below, Count Dracula, the monster-protagonist of Bram Stoker’s sensational fin-de-siècle novel Dracula, climbs down the wall of his castle, like a giant lizard. This act of transgression is witnessed by Jonathan Harker, the young solicitor from London who is his guest and, later, prisoner. Harker is deeply shocked by the Count’s display of his animal nature, but once imprisoned, he realises that his only chance to escape from the fortified castle is through an imitation of the very behaviour which has so appalled him. Like the Count, he climbs down the wall. Nina Auerbach comments on this scene of metaphorical species crossing, arguing that it constitutes an act of mimicry in which Harker discovers “his own potential elasticity” (Auerbach, 1995, p. 89). She does not explore her notion of “elasticity” further, but I believe that the concept of the “elastic body,” which I want to develop from her phrase, can provide a potent tool for conceptualising bodily transformation. Elasticity, by definition, emphasises ideas of contraction, expansion, and general f lexibility, and as such, it always already foregrounds material transformability. At the same time, it lends itself well to the texts I discuss here, because it also highlights the provisional quality of transformation: as the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary also suggests, at the very core of the elastic lies the idea that what has been stretched into different shapes can also transform back:  “Of material substances, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous: That spontaneously resumes (after a longer or shorter interval) its normal bulk or shape after having been contracted, dilated, or distorted by external force” (“elastic,” def. 3a). As my discussion in the following shows, the texts analysed in this essay specifically highlight this aspect of elasticity, presenting transformation as something that produces f lux rather than fixedness or rigidity. My essay brings together three different forms of bodily transformation: I discuss an example of cross-species transformation from Charles Kingsley’s 1 This publication was supported by the SNSF as part of a postdoctoral Marie Heim-Vögtlin scholarship.


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The Water-Babies (1863), examples of the transformation of humans into monsters (sketched as beings exhibiting different species and racial characteristics) from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), and human-machine transformations in the Swedish TV series Real Humans (2012/13) and its British-American remake Humans (2015). These transformations take place in different contexts and environments, and the texts in which they happen come from different genres, periods, and media. A brief outline of plot summaries indicates their most salient points of similarity and difference. The Water-Babies is a Victorian narrative normally regarded as a text for children. It is subtitled “A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby,” and tells the story of Tom, a little chimney sweep, who is wrongly suspected of thieving. On the run from his pursuers, Tom arrives at a little brook, and, succumbing to a sudden desire to be clean he, who has never washed before, dives into a river, where he promptly falls asleep. The hitherto realist narrative generically transforms itself at this point, for while “a black thing” is subsequently discovered in the river which Tom’s pursuers take to be his corpse, the narrator informs us that Tom has really been transformed into a water-baby. The newly supernatural narrative now details Tom’s new life in the river, focussing particularly on his interaction with other aquatic creatures, and eventually takes him on a journey towards the sea and spiritual redemption, through which his physical transformation is completed in his final translation from a water-baby into a “great man of science” (Kingsley, [1863] 2008, p. 188). Dracula, a late Victorian gothic horror novel, relates the story of Count Dracula’s attempt to extend his vampiric power from his native Transylvania to England and over the Western world. The novel starts with the arrival in Transylvania of Jonathan Harker, the English solicitor responsible for finalising the Count’s acquisition of property in England, who is later imprisoned and left to die by Dracula, but who manages to escape after Dracula has left for England. In England, Dracula attacks Jonathan’s fiancée Mina’s friend Lucy Westenra. Lucy’s mysterious illness and death are investigated by the Dutch professor Abraham Van Helsing, who convinces Lucy’s fiancé and her former suitors that they are fighting a vampire. They form the “Crew of Light,” an alliance set on bringing about Dracula’s destruction. Once Mina has also been bitten, Van Helsing and his allies chase the Count back to Transylvania in order to slay him before Mina completes her transformation into a vampire. My third example comes from a different time and medium. Real Humans is a Swedish TV series written by Lars Lundström and directed by Harald Hamrell and Levan Akin in a coproduction between Sveriges Television and Matador Film. It was broadcast on Sveriges Television in 2012 (series 1) and 2013 (series 2). Its British-American remake was written for Channel 4 and AMC by Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent, Joe Barton, and Emily Ballou, and it was broadcast in June 2015. The two science-fiction series appear to be set in a parallel present or almost imme-

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diate future, since apart from the central technological innovation around which they revolve their settings are emphatically contemporary. Their classification as science-fiction rests on their focus on humanoid robots and their interaction with human society. The robots—called “hubots” in the Swedish original and “synths” in the British-American remake—were originally designed to relieve humans from menial jobs, but the fact that they look and feel almost exactly like humans obscures their machine identity, thus complicating their status within human society. The plot of the two TV series centres on a group of conscious hubots or synths who are able to pass themselves off as humans because they possess the ability to think and feel. Liberated by a special code written by their creator, they possess true artificial intelligence. Moreover, it eventually turns out that some of them are robotic clones of dead humans, while the apparently human young man who is on the run2 with these hubots/synths is a cyborg. After he drowned as a child, his father managed to render his vital functions partly digital; just as with the hubots/ synths, his memory is on a chip, and he runs on electricity. The TV series mainly follow the fate of the conscious hubots/synths and the manner in which it becomes entangled with one human family. At the same time, they inquire into the relationship between humans and machines, humans and artificial intelligence, and scrutinise the boundaries between the two. The following discussion highlights the diverse forms of transformation that take place in these texts, paying particular attention to the elasticity of bodies in their engagement with different actants and environments. I suggest that, though their primary concerns are different, in all cases what lies beneath the various visions of transformation explored are evolutionary anxieties.

1. Victorian Transformations As in any age, in the Victorian period transformation held both a promise and a threat, depending on its context and on the perspective from which it was observed. To name one example that is particularly pertinent to The Water-Babies, the idea of transformation suggested social class mobility. Whereas earlier and predominantly rural societies had rested on strong class alliances and stability of status, in urban centres social status was more readily open to transformation. In the anonymous context of cities, and with the new possibilities for enterprise and work they offered, social mobility became a realistic option: it was increasing2  Hubots and synths are legally designated as machines and attempts to pass themselves off as human beings are strictly forbidden. The conscious hubots/synths, therefore, are in a precarious position. They have to conceal their special status, which human society sees as a threat, and hide.



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ly possible to achieve transformation through one’s own endeavour. For the less privileged, this was a promise, suggesting that they were no longer necessarily tied to their humble origins; for the ruling classes, by contrast, whose inf luence rested on age-old power structures, such a vision of mobility was a threat, potentially jeopardising their own secure positions and the legitimation of their status. Most significantly, perhaps, the idea of transformation as a means of bridging hitherto separate categories is something that we find promoted by the new scientific theories in the period, such as Darwinian evolution. According to Gillian Beer, transformation was “implicit in and newly authenticated by evolutionary theory” (2009, p. 127). As Amanda Hodgson explains in her analysis of scientific change and the understanding of species, The old science, the science which postulated a single creation and fixed species ... was about discrimination, about classifying things by the ways they differed from each other. It was a science which required, above all, logic and accuracy. But the new science was about likeness and transformation, about the ways in which things resembled each other or, even, could turn into one another. (ibid., p. 242) In The Water-Babies, a text heavily inf luenced by Darwin’s theories, Kingsley plays with the idea of resemblance. The very existence of the water-babies, aquatic but essentially anthropoid creatures, is justified in this way, by recourse to the principle of analogy characteristic of the new scientific paradigm evolution theory helped produce: Why, wise men of old said that everything on earth had its double in the water; and you may see that that is, if not quite true, still quite as true as most other theories which you are like to hear for many a day. There are land-babies—then why not water-babies? Are there not water-rats, water-flies, water-crickets, water-crabs … sea-urchins, sea-razors and sea-pens, sea-combs and sea-fans; and of plants, are there not water-grass, and water-crowfoot, water-milfoil, and so on, without end? (ibid., p. 40-41) Analogy demands that the water-world and the land-world should not be regarded as completely separate, but Kingsley goes further than this by pointing out that things in one world not only have equivalents in the other, but that they can even turn from one habitat to the other by means of transformation; in some cases, this shift from the aquatic to the terrestrial is a natural stage of development—just think of tadpoles and frogs. In this sense, transformation is part of the natural evolutionary programme of species, and in The Water-Babies this includes both inner- and cross-species development. It is this type of development that Tom’s elastic body enacts: he transforms from a terrestrial into an aquatic creature and

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

back again once he has completed his development and learned his moral lessons. Elasticity is firmly inscribed into his metamorphic development. In Kingsley’s representation of transformation, the material and the spiritual come together as Kingsley uses the idea of metamorphosis achieved through personal endeavour as a form of embodied spiritual evolution. The medium through which this evolution is achieved and expressed is the elastic body. In the water world, all Tom’s spiritual f luctuations are manifested materially in the shape of his body—when he lies and steals, for instance, he becomes so prickly that nobody can touch him. Water is here sketched as a transformative element that facilitates the materialisation of Tom’s moral condition. On land, Tom’s moral swayings have few material implications, since he remains a dirty little chimney sweep no matter what. But in the magical world of the river, spiritual developments are also physical. Towards the end of his sojourn in the water, just as he has decided to cross the sea on a long journey in order to save his old master, Mr Grimes, from certain perdition and thus to subordinate his own inclination and wishes for the benefit of somebody else, Tom learns that as a result of his frequently naughty behaviour he has repeatedly been in danger of permanently being turned into an eft (ibid., p. 136). The water world, in this sense, is firmly inscribed into the fairy-tale genre of the novel, as a place removed from the real world, and a heterotope that enables quick symbolic translations. From the beginning, Tom’s transformation is linked to a sudden desire for physical and spiritual change: for the first time in his life, he experiences both the urge to be clean and to go to church, and this wish allows him to enter a new world in which he can start afresh. His new and elastic body, which constitutes an expression of his “real” identity, becomes the vehicle through which he can effect a lasting spiritual change: “The fairies had washed him,” announces the narrator, “in the swift river, so thoroughly, that not only his dirt, but his whole husk and shell had been washed quite off him, you see, and the pretty little real Tom was washed out of the inside of it, and swam away, as a caddis does” (ibid., p. 43). Dipping into the function of rivers as powerful symbols of purification, Kingsley here constructs a cleansing scenario in which Tom, through immersion into a fantastic and symbolically charged world, is given a new chance and life. Despite the spiritual-symbolic overtones of Tom’s immersion, however, the aquatic world into which Tom is released as a water-baby is not a divine realm of redemption, but a frequently savage space in which only the fittest survive to be taken up on the evolutionary ladder. As a water-baby, Tom has the aesthetic as well as the spiritual potential for renewal, but not its guarantee. As the Queen of the Fairies tells her children when she announces Tom’s arrival in the river, “mind, maidens, he must not see you, or know that you are here. He is but a savage now, and like the beasts which perish, and from the beasts which perish he must learn” (ibid., p. 32). Fantastic and radical as his metamorphosis might seem to the reader,



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Tom has to prove his worth before the transformative cycle of his elastic body can be completed in a return to human shape and he can reach the highest step on the evolutionary ladder, that of the English scientist. In aesthetic terms, Tom’s metamorphosis requires several narrative and imaginative moves. Above all, there is the apparent generic mutation of the story itself, from realist narrative to supernatural tale. This shift, of course, is already announced in the sub-title of The Water-Babies, which characterises the story as a fairy tale from its inception. Nevertheless, the generic change has preoccupied many critics and inf luenced their evaluation of Kingsley’s text (see Padley, 2009). It also indicates an interesting overlap of factual and fictional narration, for even though The Water-Babies is mostly regarded as a narrativisation of evolutionary theory, Kingsley achieves his fictional recreation of Darwin’s scientific theories through a radical shift to the supernatural. It is the fairy-tale mode that allows him to establish the direct analogy between body and soul that propels his narrative forward, since the genre of the fairy tale enables him to construct a fantastic relation of inf luence between moral decisions and physical form which the realist mode would exclude. We have seen that when Tom is first transformed into a water-baby, this metamorphosis is hailed as the emergence of his “pretty little real” (Kingsley, [1863] 2008, p. 43) self. However, this “pretty little real” self is only the first stage in Tom’s development, which now starts afresh. He is “released from the ordinary cycle of human development, allowed to grow anew” (Beer, 2009, p. 126). His “entry into a new evolutionary stream” is a return to “the beginning of the life process” (ibid., p. 121) which opens the way towards a final mutation “quite different from that permitted to boy sweeps” (ibid., p. 128). As such, Tom receives the chance of renewal, but his transformation into a water-baby is in itself neither an end nor a salvation. In the cool environment of the river and in his strange new body Tom finds “himself swimming,” a condition which symbolically expresses the fact that he exists in a stage of transition. The aquatic world into which Tom is translated and in which he subsequently enacts his rite de passage is a magical and a symbolic space, a spiritually inf lected heterotope that reaches back to a long tradition connecting water with purification, but which at the same time incorporates Darwinian thought by presenting itself as an evolutionary stream characterised by ongoing mutational cycles and processes. Though it is a transformative realm, however, the river is not separate from society. Rather, it is a mirror world in which—as the narrator’s explicit reference to the principle of analogy shows—everything terrestrial re-appears as its own aquatic equivalent. Beer highlights the ideological and social implications of this analogy, suggesting that the river “reproduces the forms of Victorian society: division of labour, competition, family structures” (Beer, 2009, p. 121). The animals in the river are highly class conscious, for instance, and the narrator repeatedly calls them “people” (ibid., p. 60), drawing attention to the fact that they share the character traits of

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

human beings. In this sense, The Water-Babies is not just a fairy tale, but also a fable, in which animal characters serve as stand-ins for human ones. Figure 1: “They hugged and kissed each other ever so long, they did not know why.” Jessie Wilcox Smith. Illustration for Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies. 1916

The essential identity of the aquatic and the terrestrial worlds in The Water-Babies is also stressed by the fact that the water-babies are firmly humanoid beings. When Tom awakens to his new “swimming” identity in the river, the only physical change he notes is the presence of gills, “just like those of a sucking eft, which he mistook for a lace frill, till he pulled at them, found he hurt himself, and made up his mind that they were part of himself, and best left alone” (Kingsley, [1863] 2008, p. 37). This, indeed, appears to be Kingsley’s only concession to Tom’s physical mutation, and the illustrations to various editions of The Water-Babies confirm this point. In Noel Paton’s illustrations for the first edition in 1863, for instance, the



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water-babies look exactly like babies and little children, while Jesse Wilcox Smith’s famous art nouveau illustrations really depict Tom’s gills as frills and replicate them in a water-babygirl’s chaste dress, thus making them appear even more as clothing than as physical aquatic attribute (see figure 1). There is one aspect, however, in which the river is fundamentally different from the world above the waterline. In the river, Tom has possibilities of social interaction completely out of reach for a chimney sweep in Victorian society. He converses with, and learns from, all levels of aquatic society, from the “low” caddis f lies to the proud salmon. The society of animals in the river might be just as strictly regulated and structured as human society, but for Tom, the newcomer and outsider, it also offers the possibility to communicate freely with all its members, something unthinkable in the social codex to which he has been accustomed. The gift he has been given together with his transformed body, therefore, consists in his personal social amorphousness within the river world. As a newcomer and creature of a different order, Tom himself is not tied to any fixed place in the riparian society, and the manner in which he travels through water metaphorically signifies his newly acquired social mobility. At the end of the day, therefore, Tom’s body is elastic not because it undergoes great changes, but because it encompasses radically different versions of itself, versions which the river environment allows him to try out and consolidate. He emerges from the river as a member of the English white middle class who has safely detached himself from the animal kingdom, but who has not forgotten the lessons his aquatic transformation taught him. Material and spiritual renewal are inseparable, and as such inseparably inscribed on Tom’s elastic body. Compared with the spiritual emphasis of Kingsley’s text, transformation in Bram Stoker’s Dracula seems radically carnal. The creation of vampires entails bodily changes such as the sharpening of the incisors until they take the shape of fangs, and the development of a pronounced voluptuousness. However, the middle-class perspective which dominates the novel quickly re-interprets these material changes in moral terms. To the bourgeois protagonists of the novel, the plump, rosy, and sensual bodies of vampires seem nauseating because they appear as the material manifestations of tainted spirits. As a further expression of this, their bodies are also repulsive because they exhibit affinities with animals and thus highlight the existence of uncomfortable links between humanity and bestiality. As the specific bodily characteristics of vampires listed above show, transformation in Dracula also happens mainly at the boundary between humans and animals, but in contrast to Kingsley’s narrative, Stoker’s text reinterprets this translation as monstrous. While in The Water-Babies, animals are exemplary in their metamorphic capacity, illustrating the creative power of nature and of evolution, in Dracula, animalistic transformation is figured as a degrading border crossing. Here, we do not see transforming animals, but we see human characters that become more and more like animals as they mutate into vampires, a process that is

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

depicted as shocking, precisely because it exposes the fragility of the boundary between humans and animals. One of the most worrying aspects about Count Dracula himself is his striking elasticity. He is a shape shifter without any fixed material identity, a f luid character who can transform his body at will, both into animals such as bats and wolves, and into environmental phenomena such as mist. Upon his arrival, and before he suspects that Dracula is not quite human, Jonathan Harker immediately notices the Count’s physical affinities with bestiality: his first description of Dracula emphasises his “aquiline” face, his profuse growth of hair, and his “peculiarly sharp white teeth” (Stoker, [1901] 1997, p. 23), which curiously protrude from his mouth, as well as his “extremely pointed” ears (ibid., p. 24). Also, Dracula’s hands are “coarse” and hairy, with nails that are “long and fine, and cut to a sharp point” (ibid.), like claws. As Auerbach points out (1995), Dracula’s hairiness is ignored in most film adaptations of the novel (Stoker, [1901] 1997, p. 24n8), but it is relevant because it links the Count to werewolves. It has been suggested, moreover, that the hairiness of his palms also indicates that the Count is a masturbator (Blinderman, 1980, p. 412). Even before Dracula is revealed as a supernatural being, therefore, he is associated with boundary crossing, with a form of carnality which posits a continuum between beasts and humans and hence points to dangerous degenerative possibilities. As the elastic body par excellence, Dracula’s body elicits manifold and contradictory reactions. It is repulsive, but also fascinating, attractive in its sheer carnality, which lures the human bodies in the narrative towards sensations otherwise forbidden. All the characters that are bitten by vampires describe the same sensation of sweet surrender mixed with dread and even loathing, indicating a split between the body and the spirit that is as “sweet” as it is “bitter” (Stoker, [1901] 1997, p. 94). The vampire’s body is both to be feared as degraded and degrading and to be desired as offering access to sensations outside the Victorian middle-class ethos, which forms the context of the novel. As an example, I want to return to the scene mentioned at the very beginning of this essay, a scene which encapsulates the ambivalence of the vampire’s forbidden attraction by combining it with a vision of the human body in transformation, a transformation which stretches its potential towards elasticity. As mentioned at the outset, in the following scene Jonathan Harker has just discovered that all the doors in the castle are locked, making him effectively a prisoner. It is as he contemplates the steep castle walls and the sheer abyss of the inaccessible gorges around him that he sees the Count emerge from a window: What I saw was the Count’s head coming out from the window. … I was at first interested and somewhat amused …. But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss,  face down, with his cloak



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spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow; but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall. What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man? I feel the dread of this horrible place overpowering me; I am in fear—in awful fear—and there is no escape for me; I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of … (Stoker, [1901] 1997, p. 39; emphasis in original) As Nina Auerbach (1995) notes, Dracula, “has more efficient means of transportation than crawling down his castle walls”—after all, he can turn into a bat and f ly away (p. 89). Yet his reptilian descent serves its purpose in confronting Jonathan with a spectacle of species confusion which he finds deeply horrifying and unsettling. He is overcome by an “awful fear,” the fear of the bizarre and for him disgusting transformability of the human body which he has just witnessed. Dracula’s descent “devastates Jonathan with a vision of otherness in human shape” (ibid.). It highlights the impossibility of classifying his elastic body by showing that he crosses species distinctions, even within the animal world. As Auerbach highlights in her notes to the Norton edition, while as a bat he needs to be classified as a mammal, Dracula’s lizard-like behaviour aligns him with reptiles and, for the Victorians, also with reptilian dinosaurs (Stoker [1901] 1997, p. 39n3). He is, therefore, associated with different types of animals from across an assumed species and evolutionary hierarchy, and he bridges and confuses all kinds of biological distinctions. Climbing down the wall, Dracula exhibits a human body that behaves in an explicitly inhuman manner. It is this cross-species aspect that held most potential to shock the Victorians. Twenty- and twenty-first-century criticism has tended to focus on sexuality and homosexuality in Dracula, but if we consider the Victorian and turn-of-the-century paratextual evidence, other concerns come to the fore. That Dracula’s metamorphic cross-species body held a particular fascination for contemporary readers is indicated, for instance, by a review of the first edition of the novel, published in The Bookman in August 1897. Here, the scene in which Dracula climbs down the wall of his castle is singled out as key to the production of horror: Keep Dracula out of the way of nervous children, certainly; but a grown reader, unless he be of unserviceably delicate stuff, will both shudder and enjoy from p. 35, when Harker sees the Count ‘emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall … (Moore & Reppion, 2011, p. 26).

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

That this event is recognised as central to the creation of horror also shows how well Dracula’s elastic cross-species condition fits into definitions of the monster typical of the horror genre. According to Noël Carroll (1990), the horror monster needs to “def[y] our conception of nature,” since the “potential pleasure” of the horror narrative “depends on the confirmation of the existence of the monster as a being that violates, defies, or problematizes standing cultural classifications” (p. 185). The “shudder” which the reviewer in The Bookman predicts is pleasurable for the reader, therefore, precisely because Dracula’s body defies the laws of human existence and violates species categorisation. The appeal of this event, of Dracula’s “descent” in more than one sense, is also demonstrated by the fact that both the first paperback edition of Dracula, and its 1919 edition chose this scene for their cover illustrations: Figure 2: Cover of the first paperback edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company; Leeds: Chorley and Pickersgill, 1901



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Figure 3: Cover of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 13th ed. London: William Rider and Son, 1919

Both covers focus on the signs of Dracula’s elastic body which his transgressive act foregrounds. While the 1919 edition (fig. 3) highlights the disturbing contrast between Dracula’s elegant clothes and distinguished looks on the one hand, and his unnatural behaviour on the other, the 1901 edition (fig. 2) emphasises the cross-species body: Dracula’s exposed calves and feet with their strongly highlighted muscles and sinews clearly pronounce his human physical identity, but his toes and fingers resemble those of a reptile, recalling a lizard’s adhesive toe pads. His clothes are noticeably less elegant than in the 1919 version, visually downgrading his status, and the shape of his cloak imitates the wings of a bat. Visually, this Dracula is a creature of a troublingly hybrid physique. The first paperback cover illustration (fig. 2) casts Jonathan as the passive spectator whom his diary entry shows him to be. Yet the horror of Dracula’s descent is even exacerbated later on when Jonathan decides to emulate his behaviour. Pressed to find a way into the Count’s room, and unable to enter it from within the house, Jonathan suddenly falls upon the idea of copying Dracula’s climb:

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

Yes, there is a way, if one dares to take it. Where his body has gone why may not another body go? I have seen him myself crawl from his window; why should not I imitate him, and go in by his window? The chances are desperate, but my need is more desperate still. I shall risk it. At the worst it can only be death; and a man’s death is not a calf’s …(Stoker, [1901] 1997, p. 49) Even as he contemplates a form of nonhuman behaviour that shortly before shocked him into an “overpowering” and “awful fear,” Jonathan is careful to distance himself from the world of animals: “a man’s death is not a calf’s.” At the same time, however, with his focus on the “body” (“Where his body has gone, why may not another body go?”), Jonathan also introduces the dualism between the material and the spiritual that was at issue in discussions about the relation between humans and non-humans, and theories of creation and evolution. In picturing his own descent down the wall, Jonathan rhetorically reduces himself to a “body,” paradoxically precisely in order to be able to preserve the difference between humans, as spiritual beings, and nonhumans, as pure matter. Rhetorically split from Jonathan’s soul, his “body” can follow Dracula’s transgressive and unclassifiable body, without, so Jonathan chooses to believe, tainting his soul. Jonathan accomplishes the climb and repeats it twice, the third time climbing down the whole of the castle in order to escape. The essentially conservative and emphatically ordinary man has learned his lesson and has accepted that his only chance of survival lies in embracing “the vision of otherness in human shape”, which he finds so disturbing (Auerbach, 1995, p. 89). That his “descent” remains a profoundly traumatic event despite its practical success, however, is demonstrated by the violent brain fever which hits Jonathan after his escape, and which enfeebles him for a long time, until by killing Dracula, he can exorcise the spectre of bestiality within himself.

2. Techno-Transformations One of the frightening aspects about Dracula is that he travels,3 that he leaves the periphery of pre-modern Transylvania and sets in motion a chain of transformations within London, the western metropolis and centre of modernity.4 Dracula presents this as a form of infiltration, and as the Count’s attempt at reverse colo3 See also Law, 2010, p. 160. 4 Unfortunately, the limited space of this essay does not allow me to discuss the transformations of Lucy and Mina, the two friends who are attacked by Dracula in England. Lucy dies and becomes a vampire, only to be killed for good—set “free” (Dracula, p. 191)—by her fiancé, while Mina’s gradual transformation into a vampire is stopped and reversed with Dracula’s destruction.



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nisation (see Arata, 1990). In Real Humans and Humans, on which this final section of my essay focuses, by contrast, the hubots/synths who constitute the transformative boundary-crossers in these two artificial intelligence TV series are a part of human society from the beginning, because they have been created by humans in order to fill specific places in their economic and social system. Thus hubots/ synths are designed to take subordinate roles within human society, and it is once various robots (the conscious hubots/synths) and humans (those for whom the robots become more than “mere” machines) transgress the carefully established boundaries between the two groups that clear demarcations collapse and both hubot/synth and human bodies become visible as elastic. Hubots or synths are machines based on humans, machines through whose very existence central characteristics of humanity and of the human body are transformed into perfection. In this way, they form a human-machine interface that embodies an ideal aesthetics towards which humans aspire. At the same time, however, their very perfection marks them as part of a digital aesthetics whose imperfection lies, paradoxically, in the absence of aesthetic f laws. This aesthetic perfection identifies them as unnatural and it is, therefore, used as a distinguishing feature between humans and robots in the attempt to police the boundary between the two. In Humans, perfection is a legal production requirement. As outlined in the “Persona Synthetics User Guide” that can be found on the AMC website, “International law requires that Synths be blemish-free, with certain identifying features so they cannot be mistaken for humans.” That synths or hubots might be mistaken for humans is the crux, the aspect on which anxieties caused by the uncertain status of the robots centre. As in the other examples discussed here, this is partly bound up with evolutionary concerns, for what is really at issue in the series is whether in creating hubots/synths, humans have built creatures with evolutionary advantages over humanity, creatures that will supplant humans as a new, more advanced, and fitter stage of humanoid development. It is the aesthetics of transformation that crucially determines this dilemma, for without the essentially human shape of hubots/synths, the confusion between humans and robots would not take the same form. It is humanity’s desire to create machines in its own image and humans’ ability to project themselves into different medial transformations and technologically enhanced intelligences surpassing their own that renders their relationship to hubots/synths so complex. In addition to being a sign of their synthetic nature and a threat, however, the hubots/synths’ perfection also becomes an object of desire, a characteristic that makes some human characters prefer robots to humans. A number of humans, for instance, start relationships with their robots. These humans literally desire a physical merging with machines, though most of them have their robots sexually modified in order to make them less mechanic as lovers, indicating that this merging is, at best, qualified. For other humans, hubots/synths become val-

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

ued companions in a spiritual merging—in Humans, for example, former synth co-creator George Millican suffers from dementia, and it is not within his own brain, but in his synth Odi that his most valued memories of his former life and of his wife are preserved. Most saliently, the second series of Real Humans introduces a group of “transhumans,” who not only campaign for hubot rights, but who mimic hubots by dressing like them and by copying their behaviour. Betty, a member of the transhumans who befriends the eldest daughter of the central Engman family, for instance, habitually pretends to be a hubot and manages to fool other humans with her robotic movements, slightly monotonous staccato speech, and her hubot-style pastel-coloured clothes, f lamboyant make-up, and extravagant hairstyles. As her example shows, the transhumans embrace an elastic sense of identity. While they visually align themselves with the artificiality of hubots in order to signal their belief in human-hubot equality and companionship, they also celebrate hubot aesthetics as a new mode of being. Through their mimicry they establish a new kind of human-hubot contact that rests on their exploration of their own elastic transhuman bodies as surfaces on which the two species can meet, at least aesthetically. The transhumans are a small group, however, and most humans regard hubots/ synths as things, mass-produced household appliances identified by a serial number and the inscription of their owner on a chip. Like cars, they are subject to regular servicing and denied a licence once they become dated, in which case they are recycled. Through these regulations, hubots/synths are marked by humans as objects, entities fundamentally different and firmly separate from themselves. The situation becomes more complicated, however, with the appearance of hubot clones in Real Humans. The central human family in the series, the Engmans, lose their grandfather Lennart at the end of the first series. In series 2, he makes a surprise reappearance when his clone, a hubot modelled on his physical body and complete with a digitalised version of his human memories, is sent to his unsuspecting family. Lennart’s clone poses a new conundrum: as the robotic version of a human being, who or what exactly is he? His daughter Inger is shocked by the arrival of the clone, but nevertheless unable to ignore its presence. At a service counselling session, Inger openly questions the whole concept of the hubot clone, highlighting its artificial character and criticising the idea that a personality could be “scanned” and transferred into a digital clone as a fraud. The hubot clone’s “memories” are based on photographs and questionnaires—for Inger, such a clone is neither natural nor real, but a machine adept at creating the illusion of actual emotions and shared memories. Yet as the further progress of the series shows, once the clone is in action, Inger’s attitude undergoes a radical change. After a short while, Inger refers to the clone as “daddy;” she has come to regard it as her father himself rather than his digital version, insisting that it ought to be treated not as a hubot, but as a human being. Nevertheless, some latent frustra-



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tion quickly starts to seep in as well. When Inger first starts up the clone, she is touched by its first words—“I love you, Inger. I have not been very good at saying it. But I am proud of you and all you have accomplished” (series 2, throughout). Unaccustomed to such affection, Inger is close to tears. But after a while these words lose their appeal, and Inger reacts with irritation to their repetition: “You have already told me that,” she tells her father’s clone. Perhaps the clone is not really “daddy,” after all. The age-old question of what distinguishes the human species is still at large in the series. Again, the situation is more complicated than the clone scenario suggests for, as the series progresses, it turns out that some of the conscious hubots/synths are clones as well. As these clones possess true artificial intelligence, their ontological status is more complex than that of a clone such as Lennart’s, who has been programmed to exude love whenever he is with his family. The conscious clones have independent personalities, and much of the two series revolves around the question of whether they constitute a gift, a new life form that can live in harmony with humans, or a curse that endangers the human species. Rather than focus on the ontological position of the conscious clones, however, I want to conclude with their visual-aesthetic representation. In Dracula, the one character whose full transformation into a vampire we actually witness, Lucy, is rhetorically turned into a monster when her former suitors realise that her lingering beauty after death is a sign of her undeadly transformation. She is suddenly cast as a dangerous siren, a voluptuous femme fatale who falls completely outside the code of feminine propriety. Similarly, Mina, who never fully transforms into a vampire, but whose metamorphosis is well advanced towards the end of the novel, becomes increasingly animalistic in her habits, and her shedding of her habitually demure femininity coincides with the development of a strongly erotic streak. Both women are depicted as increasingly unnatural, and it is this unnaturalness that turns them into monsters. Real Humans and Humans employ visual strategies in order to reach an equivalent effect of disturbing unnaturalness. In contrast to the transhumans in Real Humans, who aim for an appearance of artificiality in their mimicry of hubots, hubots/synths who try to blend into human society aim for naturalness. They cover their bright blue or green eyes with contact lenses, wear skin patches over their USB ports, avoid the pastel colours typical of hubot/synth clothing and imitate the f luidity of human movement and speech. An example of successful imitation is Karen, a conscious clone in Humans who has managed to disguise her synth identity throughout her work as a special investigations police officer. Karen is introduced as a kind and caring person. She is funny, helpful and sympathetic, and when her partner Pete separates from his wife, who has decided she prefers her synth to her husband, Karen offers to put him up at her f lat. It is at this moment that Karen’s synth identity is revealed. After saying good night to

The Aesthetics of Bodies in Translation

Pete, she locks herself into her room and—accompanied by ominous music and shown in extreme close-up—opens her mouth wide in order to extract a plastic bag which contains everything she has taken in during the day. The episode ends here, and viewers are left with the image of a strangely erect and rigid Karen remaining motionless in front of her desk. At the moment when she pulls out the plastic bag which allows her to simulate eating and drinking, the portrayal of Karen radically f lips. Suddenly, she no longer appears as the nice person viewers have become accustomed to over four episodes, but as a monster. The close-up of her widely opening mouth and her extraction of her own—albeit fake plastic—guts visually emphasise this point. Through the mode of representation, Karen abruptly turns into a disgusting and potentially dangerous thing. The fact that this scene is a cliff hanger at the end of episode 4 and that the audience is left with no clue as to the reasons for her disguise underline the shock effect of the revelation of Karen’s identity. Karen and Beatrice, her counterpart in Real Humans, are monsters not only because of the visual mode of representation through which their identities are lifted5 but also because in Carroll’s sense, they are not classifiable (Carroll, 1990). Their bodies, including physique, brains, memories and feelings, are truly elastic, modelled on dead human originals, inf lected by their creators’ memories of and feelings for these originals, and modified by their hubot/synth abilities and identities. Neither purely human nor purely synthetic, they embody an elasticity that can stretch across the division between humans and machines, the organic and the digital, showing that in their case, machines and robots are not merely enhancements or extensions of human bodies that remain dependent on human agency, but that the human-machine hybrids they represent are new creatures, perhaps even a new species.

3. Conclusion In all of the examples discussed here, the elastic body functions as a contact zone for a multiplicity of players, a contact zone in which connections, bridgings, mergings, but also conf lict, can be embodied and performed. By transporting Tom to the magical and symbolically charged environment of the river, Kingsley’s The Water-Babies is able to present transformation as a positive process. Transformation here is f luid, like the element in which it takes place, and provisional, one stage in 5  Real Humans contains an almost identical scene in which Beatrice also pulls a plastic bag from her mouth. The main difference between the two scenes lies in the fact that Beatrice is a sinister character from the beginning, a fact that lessens the shock effect when her hubot identity is revealed.



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Tom’s development towards a higher level of existence, and hence a facilitator of progress which ultimately proves the supremacy of the soul over the body. When Tom’s spiritual transformation has been achieved, his body follows suit and he re-enters the human world. Dracula recasts animality, which functions as a paradigm of transformability in The Water-Babies, as monstrous and presents transformation as a threat that imperils the integrity of the human body. Ultimately, this novel also asserts the supremacy of the soul—the excessively carnal Count is killed, Lucy destroyed and returned to purity, and Mina is saved, while Jonathan metaphorically manages to split his soul from his body even as he explores his own elasticity. Nevertheless, in Dracula, “the f lesh makes a courageous stand and almost achieves victory” (Blinderman, 1980, p. 413). In Real Humans and Humans, “the f lesh” becomes synthetic and brain matter digital, and through the hybrid human-machine scenario the two series manage to challenge ideas of what is natural. In a digital age, the elastic body stretches into new dimensions and towards the inorganic. While mutations in The Water-Babies and Dracula involve the species boundaries between animals and humans and ultimately lead away from the scenes of merging (the river in Kingsley’s novel, Transylvania and the vampires in Stoker’s) in order to reinstate human integrity despite the characters’ explorations of elasticity, in Real Humans and Humans, transformation signals a more lasting conf luence between the organic and the inorganic, the human body and the machine, the natural and the artificial. The boundaries between these categories collapse in the bodies of the hubots/synths, who have been created by humans but are becoming independent. Most importantly, and in contrast to the Victorian texts discussed here, in which humanity is firmly installed as the highest form of life, in these sci-fi series, the answer to the question of which life form is more advanced is still pending. With the involvement of technology, evolutionary anxiety is thus no longer directed only towards the prospect of degradation, but also towards a progress that might, Real Humans and Humans suggest, eventually leave humanity behind and render it obsolete.

References Arata, Stephen D. (1990) “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization.” Victorian Studies 33(4), 621-645. Auerbach, Nina (1995). Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press. Beer, Gillian (2009). Darwin’s Plots Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 1983. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Blinderman, Charles S. (1980) “Vampurella: Darwin and Count Dracula”. The Massachusetts Review, 21(2), 411-428. Carroll, Noël (1990). The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart. Taylor and Francis e-library. “elastic, adj. and n.” (2015). Def. 3a. OED Online. Oxford University Press. Hamrell, Harald/Akin, Levan (2013). Real Humans (film). Schweden: Sveriges Television; Matador Film. Kingsley, Charles ([1863], 2008). The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby. Richard D. Beards (Ed. and Intro.). Penguin: London. Law, Jules (2010). The Social Life of Fluids: Blood, Milk and Water in the Victorian Novel. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press. Moore, Leah & Reppion, John (2011). Contemporary Reviews of “Dracula.” Introduced by Leah Moore and John Reppion. Bram Stoker Series 4. Dublin: Swan River Press. Padley, Jonathan (2009). “Marginal(ized) Demarcator: (Mis)Reading The Water-Babies.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 34(1), 51-64. Paton, Noel (1863). Illustration for The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley. London; Cambridge: Macmillan. British Library Public Domain. Retrieved from http:// (accessed 24/ 10/15). Persona Synthetics User Guide. AMC. Retrieved from shows/humans/exclusives/user-guide (accessed 21/10/15). Stoker, Bram (1997). Dracula. Ed. Nina Auerbach & David J. Skal. Norton Critical Edition. New York; London: Norton. —. Cover Illustration to Stoker, Bram, Dracula (1901). 1st paperback edition. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company; Leeds: Chorley and Pickersgill. —. Cover Illustration to Stoker, Bram, Dracula (1919). 13th ed. London: William Rider and Son. Vincent, Sam/Brackley, Jonathan (2015). Humans (film). USA: Channel 4.


II. Bodies Unbound: Disability, Ability, Enhancement

From Disability to Enhancement: Paradoxical Representations of Prosthetic Bodies in the Media Discourse Valentine Gourinat

1. Framework: the growing media coverage of amputees The phenomenon of amputation has always been present in the collective consciousness due to successive wars that left behind mutilated soldiers, historic fictional characters (e.g. Captain Hook and his amputated hand or Captain Ahab and his amputated leg), and or anxiety related to injury or mutilation. The iconography of the amputated body is thus a historical and cultural fact across the ages. The passage from the twentieth century to the twenty-first century brought about a radical change given the presence of the media’s representations of amputation. The aff lux of new technology in the therapeutic field and the growing fascination for all contemporary innovations, from both users and the media, gradually transformed the amputated body’s iconography. These bodies are no longer perceived as crippled, reduced, or terrifying. Moreover, amputees are now forging a new form of imaginary related to performance, to technological future, and even to the prospects of human enhancement (Marcellini, 2010). In the past years, many events concerning amputation were heavily mediatized. Many of them happened at a within a short time frame, one after the other, or even simultaneously. Their media reports reinforced the visibility of amputees and prostheses for the collective imagination. Some relevant examples in this sense shall be discussed and analyzed in the following. The present research was conducted following a combined analysis: on the one hand, media trends that appeared in recent years on the Internet were focused. Classical contemporary media material, which brings together all types of media such as press, television, radio, and photography was used in order to determine what topics were the most prominent. These elements shall allow the collective representations and the social imaginary of amputation and prosthetics to be mapped. On the other hand, the discourse of amputees coming from interviews and informal discussions was used in order to understand how they saw themselves, how they perceived their environment, and to what extent their views and


Valentine Gourinat

representations matched or contradicted the data in the media. This double scale will help in analyzing and understanding the borders between fictional and factual prosthetic bodies.

2. A promising media discourse on prosthetic bodies As shall be shown in the following, the media dynamics in which amputation and prosthesis are present is heavily marked by a futuristic perspective, or focused on performance aspects. The drawing line between fiction and reality is often blurred, both fields seeming to overlap one another. Major recurrent media developments during the past decade shall be considered further in order to show their significant contribution to new forms of collective imagination.

2.1 An image of the future One of the most striking aspects in the current media, in which amputation is thematized, highlights new prosthetic technology. A large number of articles1 present technological developments and innovations that refer to research in prosthetic engineering. In the introduction it was mentioned that a significant number of articles showing the spectacular advances in prosthetic technology are published each year, and that “robotic prostheses2”, “bionic prostheses3”, or “prostheses controlled by thought4” constantly abound in the the media landscape, shaping the audience’s imagination. Similarly, to some not-to-be-missed journal feuilleton, the most advanced and surprising prosthetic devices constantly impress both the general and specialized public, remaining an undeniably successful topic. Among some of the most popular examples of the past years are the following: In the early 2000s, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago designed the first myoelectric prosthesis in the world. It was tested in 2005 by an American electrician bilateral amputee, Jesse Sullivan, and a former military amputee, Claudia Mitchell. It was officially presented to the public in 2006. The images of these two amputees 1 Around a quarter of the press articles listed and analyzed in my doctoral dissertation (216 out of 960 or 24.5%) were dedicated to prosthetic technologies. 2 For instance: Jacob Templin, (02/02/18).  The US government just gave someone a $120-million robotic arm to use for a year. Retrieved from Quartz (accessed 08/02/18). 3 Stuart Nathan, (04/01/18). Future prosthetic: Towards the Bionic Human. Retrieved from The Engineer (accessed 04/01/18). 4 New York Times (20/05/15). Prosthetic limbs, controlled by thought. Retrieved from NY Times (accessed 21/05/15).

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taken in 2006 spread around the world. This is how the first “bionic man” and the first “bionic woman” came on the media scene. These images are still widely used nowadays, and they became emblematic for the arrival of bionic technology in the medical world and at another scale in the field of disability technology. From this moment on, new prosthetic innovations have gradually continued to captivate media, at least all those under the label of “bionic”. Many other innovations are developed each year, particularly with respect to materials and comfort. However they are not broadcast by media, because they are less impressive for the general audience. Each year, the media present new models, a new discovery, a new company. Otto Bock’s “Michaelangelo” prosthetic hand, “C-Leg” or the “Genium” prosthetic knee, Össur’s “Rheo” prosthetic knee, Touch Bionics’ “I-Limb” prosthetic arm, BeBionics’ “Terminator” prosthetic arm, or more recently the extraordinary BiOM ankle developed by Hugh Herr at MIT’s Biomechatronics Lab are among the most famous examples. Each of them has already been the main topic of many articles and television documentaries, and there are plenty of narratives of patients using such devices. These specific patients are also highly solicited by both industries that designed their prosthesis and journalists from various newspapers, TV channels, or webzines. It seems that the public is never bored of these new “bionic humans”, who display technological advances and promote science’s benefits in front of life’s adversity. The two most famous representatives of this development are undoubtedly Aimee Mullins and Hugh Herr, two bilateral amputees who became real prophets of the prosthetic cause. They openly claim in interviews or conferences5 they make that they feel placed at an advantage by their prosthetic devices in comparison to body-abled persons. Both have been repeatedly present in the media, and in recent debates on the possibility of having a bionic body and the prospects for human enhancement. Even though the general public is probably aware that human enhancement is not a valid cause yet, the media constantly aliment the collective imagination with details about the new performances that current prostheses would be able to realize. These refer to the ability to recover the sense of touch, react to muscles or nerve stimulation, make movements in a more natural manner, and ultimately control the prosthesis with one’s mind.

2.2 An ode to performance Another important aspect, which has common grounds with the previous one but differs from it in some points, refers to the concept of performance. Whether technological, technical, or physical, performances of various prostheses and 5 Hugh Herr’s Ted Talk “New bionics let us run, climb and dance” and Aimee Mullins’s Ted Talk “It’s not fair having 12 pairs of legs”.



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amputees wearing them continue to mine the media world, which in turn makes them visible. The concept of performance is of constant interest and injunction for the collective consciousness. The focus on performance follows three main categories: 1. Performance in relation to technology: new technological innovations are constantly present in the media landscape. In this perspective, prosthetic devices are considered independently from their actual use by amputees. The prosthesis as such suffices to impress the public, without demonstrating the reality of its use or proving how efficient it is. This is for instance the case for 3D printed prostheses. Indeed, the media discourse almost never mentions the effective use, and the prosthesis is only shown for commercial purposes or with respect to their impact on the body image. 2. Performance in relation to the body in general: this aspect is referred to in articles and documents dealing with activities of amputees, the examples of which are, in general, from the domain of sports. Various challenges undertaken by amputees such as running in a marathon, climbing a mountain, and swimming for long distances always catch the interest of the public. The challenges that amputees are able to overcome are as unexpected as they are varied. They are also heavily exploited by the press, because besides advocating physical performance, they are in addition collective messages that amputees try to spread. For instance, in France, the case of Philippe Croizon received extensive media broadcast in 2010 and 2012 on the occasion of his incredible nautical achievements. For many years, numerous press articles were written about him. He is by far the most written about French amputee in different media and the most well-known French spokesperson for the disabled community. The purpose of his outstanding performance was not only to outdo himself in front of adversity but also to show that a severely disabled body as his, his four limbs were amputated, is able to excel. His message was thus that disability never stopped human ambitions, and that excellence in sports is not a unique privilege of the able-bodied. 3. The performance with respect to the prosthetic body: it is actually a combination of the two previous categories, but it can be considered as a category on its own. This category actually generates many fantasies in the public’s mind. What can technology offer to the body? Are prosthetic bodies, namely bodies with prostheses, superior to natural bodies? Are they the future of the human body condition? If this category is not necessarily the most present in the media since it refers to either rare or fictive examples, it is still the one that raises the most interests, debates, controversies, and fantasies6. It inspires equally as much the media and scientists, and draws the general public’s interest more than any other topic re6 For instance:  The Guardian (15/06/13). The future of robotics: in a transhuman world, the disabled will be the ones without prosthetic limbs. Retrieved from The Guardian (accessed 16/06/13).

From Disability to Enhancement

lated to amputation. The most meaningful example of this mixed approach will probably remain for years to come the case of Oscar Pistorius. Although he was already the holder of gold medals and world records upon entering the Paralympic Games of Athens in 2004, it was after these games that Pistorius’ reputation as unconventional champion moved beyond the sphere of disability. It has only been since 2007 that Oscar Pistorius has come to center stage. Invited to compete against body-abled athletes in July 2007 in Rome, he surprised the audience when he won second place and defeated almost all body-abled athletes against whom he was competing that day. This event amazed the audience, and ever since the media has continued to focus on the performances of this athlete, nicknamed “Blade Runner”. Whereas his capacities were not overtly acknowledged in parasports, his explosive presence in the world of body-abled competition challenged the public’s understanding of disability. The athlete and his prosthetic feet nourished then many fantasies, prejudices, and social debates. Is he body-abled or not? Does he cheat or not? Is he a superhuman or not? Is he a cyborg or not? The events that followed continued to fuel the Pistorius’ “saga” and both the scientific and popular debates in the media on his prosthetic condition (Adam & Trabal, 2013; Issanchou & De Léséleuc, 2013; Lazaro, 2013). He was banned from the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and his participation in the London Olympic Games in 2012 was also questioned, not to mention that he was asked to race against a horse in December 2012 (a spectacular event that clearly reveals the media instrumentalization in which he took part).

2.3 Spectacular profiles Considering the representation of amputees in the different media, one can easily see that the people and stories which receive the greatest attention always involve young and healthy people. Their experiences are mostly traumatic amputations due to an accident and contrasts to amputations due to illness. Furthermore, they are mostly amputees who dispose of a significant physical capital and have an active social life despite their disability. Similarly, some amputees use media to be promoted in the public sphere, because their profile is both impressive and emblematic. Take for example, the case of Hugh Herr or Aimee Mullins. In order to emphasize the portraits mostly shown in the media and to give account of the main features observed in the present study, a typology based on three emblematic patterns shall be proposed: the Sportsman, the Cyborg/Bionic man, and the Hero/Warrior. Many types of media use at least one of these categories when they deal with amputees. These categories are recurrent, and they are characterized as follows: 1. the Sportsman: the amputated athlete’s profiles are strongly targeted by the media. Athletes such as Oscar Pistorius and Philippe Croizon were granted



Valentine Gourinat

substantial attention by the media, but they are not the only ones. Various sport competitions where disabled people were competing have grown in number over the years and become more and more a central topic of the press. Moreover, various documentaries on recent innovative prosthetic devices almost all contain one or more scenes related to sport activities. For instance, one of the latest popular topics presented by the media concerned the German athlete Markus Rehm who was recently at the core of a debate on “technological doping” in the context of the Athletics World Championship7. 2. the Bionic man/Cyborg: many “anonymous” patients—in contrast to sport celebrities—find themselves projected on the media front stage from the moment when they have been fitted with one of the newest prosthetic devices. Stories where these amputees are named “bionic-humans” or “cyborgs” are recurrent in the media. These persons are identified by journalists and by the audience—and sometimes even by themselves—as the first bionic humans or cyborgs. They could be representative for a future hyperconnected generation. This category encompasses “common” persons, such as amputees with robotic arms, sharing their experience and joking in various documentaries about the fact that they feel or at least are considered like “the six million dollar man”. It also includes famous amputee celebrities who openly claim to be bionic humans. The earlier mentioned researcher Hugh Herr or the British singer Victoria Modesta are known examples8. This label makes the public curious, and raises questions generating public debates about the future of the body. 3. The Hero/Warrior: the last category can, on the one hand, be understood literally by taking into account the media coverage of war amputees and prototypes of prostheses developed by the army. In the US media culture, for instance, pictures of amputated soldiers regaining their mobility, or testing some of DARPA’s super-prosthesis are common. However, the warrior profile does not only refer to soldiers. A second heroic profile even more shown by media is the civilian who fights successfully against the own physical identity or its social apprehensions. These profiles refer to stories of amputated people who demonstrate an ostensible resilience and who regain whole control of their life and of their image, beyond disability and mutilation. In this perspective, amputees who regained confidence in themselves gratefully play the game of encouragement and bestow an exemplary attitude in order to make people understand that amputation is not the end, but the beginning of something else. A good example, which has the advantage of linking the two warrior profiles—soldier and resilient—is the War Veterans 7 L’Équipe (26/10/15). Markus Rehm: Trop loin pour être vrai? Retrieved from L’Équipe (accessed 26/10/15) 8 Marley Walker, (31/10/16). Bionic Artist Viktoria Modesta Transcends the Human Body. Retrieved from Wired (accessed 31/10/6).

From Disability to Enhancement

calendar published in 20159. In this calendar (which has created a real buzz on the Internet during the past months) twelve amputated soldiers pose naked with or without their prosthesis, offering an alternative look and aesthetics of their mutilated (but healthy and muscled, that is to say, corresponding to the dominant social criteria) body.

3. A medial body far from reality As shown in the previous section, amputees are mainly represented by the media as being strong and self-controlled persons, mainly young, successful, and fitted with extraordinary prosthetic devices. They are portrayed as being in control of their injured bodies and as having used them to build a different identity. This medial body (the prosthetic body) is therefore identified, through media discourses, by a strong and futuristic iconography. But this kind of prosthetic body, without being totally fictive is however far from the facts. Indeed, the reality behind these portraits may be very different, as shall further be explained.

3.1 Significant data In as far as etiology is concerned, different sources (Quesnel, 2013) consider that 70% to 95% of amputations, especially in the case of diabetes, are due to vascular causes. Only 5% to 15 % of amputations are caused by accidents. In the same study, another recurrent feature was that around 50% of amputations are associated with diabetes, both in France, UK, Ireland, Spain, Finland, and even 66% in Germany. Diabetes is also an aggravating factor with respect to the risk of re-amputation. One diabetic amputee of five (19.8%) is amputated several times of one or more of his limbs during his lifetime (ibid). The average age of patients at the moment of their amputation is relatively constant in various studies, highlighting in all industrialized countries the following interval: between 65 to 75 years old in all countries concerned where different studies on the etiology of amputation were carried. The lowest age is 62 years old in the United States, and the highest 75 years in Finland. To sum it up, we are far from the broadcasted images of young and healthy amputated bodies, since amputees are mostly old and ill people. Furthermore, the habitual body condition of amputees needs to be described: the wide majority of amputations characterize a body which is often at risk due to diseases with significant comorbidities, especially among older patients. In this 9 C arl Stern, (17/07/15) Bravely baring it all: Photographer captures amputee war veterans posing naked and proudly revealing their injuries in powerful picture series. Retrieved from The DailyMail (accessed 17/07/15).



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context, it becomes more and more difficult to provide prosthetic devices to every patient. A certain percentage of these patients are simply not able to use a proper prosthesis, precisely given their precarious physical condition. All the studies undertaken in industrialized countries show that scarcely half of lower limb amputees receive a prosthesis within the few months following their operation: 44, 8% in Australia, 50% in Holland, 55% in Sweden, 63.3% in the United Kingdom, from 32% to 42% in the United States, and only 26.9% in Finland. Thus, one amputee in two will not benefit of a prosthesis. we could also mention the fact that only one in ten survive more than 10 years after an amputation, as observed in several studies (ibid.). Therefore, contrary to what the media show, well equipped amputees with efficient prosthesis are far from being representative of the global situation. Moreover, even when the amputees receive prostheses, one can wonder how many of them continue to use their prosthesis once they come back to their homes. According to many practitioners, many patients, mostly the older ones, give up using their prosthesis regularly and stop their efforts to improve movement, preferring to use a simple wheelchair (in the case of lower limb amputation) or their stump (in the case of upper limb amputation) when they leave the medical structure. It has been proven that even when they are able to use their prosthesis properly during the functional rehabilitation process, thus enjoying a suitable and functional prosthetic equipment once back home, numerous amputees eventually give up using their prosthesis after a few months. A study conducted in 2005 (Taylor et al., 2005) analyzed the functional situation of more than 500 patients after they had left the functional rehabilitation center. The resultant data of the research speak for themselves: only 65.3% of patients under 50 years old continued to use their prosthesis a year after their coming home. This ratio shrinks in the case of older patients: 21.9% for persons over 80 years old. The reasons often are linked to the difficulty in using the prosthesis, and it has been shown that many patients finally feel more comfortable in using their body rather than their prosthesis (Bidiss & Chau, 2007). To summarize, amputees are currently in an increasingly precarious physical situation. These patients, are too weak to use the prostheses that were prescribed. Globally, it is very difficult for patients to regain their walking or grasping abilities after amputation, even when they are well-equipped or when they are young and healthy. Only 77,1% of patients under 50 years old and only 39.6% of patients over 70 years old recover their initial ambulatory capacities (Taylor et al., 2005). These data prove themselves to be alarming when considering the concept of “back-to-mobility”. One no longer talks about recovering previous abilities, but only about basic moving abilities, namely the simple fact of moving autonomously. These moving abilities could be reduced compared to the abilities the concerned had before their amputation. According to a British study (Davies & Datta, 2003) on femoral amputees, amputees’ mobility has begun to drop around 50% to 60% at 50 years old and has reached 6% among people aged 80 years old and

From Disability to Enhancement

more. Thus, the physical situation of amputees has gradually deteriorated during the past decades, despite the obvious improvement of prosthetic material. One can here easily understand that technological progress is not a miraculous answer to issues central for an amputated body. Far from fiction, and more in the light of facts, the “bionic humans” portrayed in media discourses are only a showcase, hiding a much more complex reality.

3.2 The prosthetic body and its complex interaction with the environment Furthermore, it can be noticed that the everyday life problems of the amputees, particularly numerous and complex, are barely considered by the media. Factual prosthetic bodies are not as functional as medial bodies’ iconography may suggest. The use and care of both the residual limb and the prosthesis are almost non-existing in collective representations, whereas they hold an essential part in amputees’ lives. Patients need to take care of the residual limb, respecting a strict lifestyle. This is especially the case for “vascular” patients who need to respect specific diets and quotidian examinations to have the state of health of their residual limb under control. They also need to know how to preserve and use the prosthesis, but unfortunately, a certain number of patients do not know how to properly use their equipment. Amputees must always be attentive to certain corporeal limits: connected to the prosthesis, the residual limb sweats, scratches or sometimes it hurts. Amputated persons need to know exactly when and how to use their prosthesis and what conditions do not endanger the residual limb or produce discomfort. Getting hurt is very easy when prosthetic equipment is not used correctly. This is especially the case when practicing sports. Running, for example, is one of the most violent sports for residual legs—because of the intense hit, sometimes leading to irreversible injuries. In a certain way, the figure of the sportsman, as previously described, minimizes awareness of the real risks of sports practices for amputees. Moreover, despite an efficient equipment, amputees often face limitations and obstacles due to the material environment surrounding them: stairs, for instance, represent a daily concern for femoral amputees. Shower or bathing are dangerous activities for every lower limb amputees since they cannot wear their prosthesis under the water. Similarly, a simple kitchen can be a hostile environment for upper limb amputees. Unstable or rough ground, slopes, sand, slippery and aquatic environments, or simple pavement are dangerous for any person using a prosthetic leg. Wearing a prosthesis—especially of the lower limb which represents over 80% of the amputees having an external prosthesis—requires an increased awareness. Not all types of ground are adapted for walking with an artificial leg. Rudimentary leg prostheses are not built with mobile ankles and do not allow to easily walk up a slope. They are not made to walk in the water, sand,



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or mud, and do not provide stability when walking on a soft or slippery ground. Last but not least, hostile spaces need also to be taken into account, both social and intersubjective ones. Amputees must face and endure other people’s look at their body when amputation is visible. Sometimes they need to cope with frequent remarks from other people, which may be supportive but also disrespectful. This is not always the case, given the new prototypes of prostheses, which look like human limbs, and the development of new outfit strategies. If amputation can most often be hidden—and that is what the majority of amputees try to do, in order not to be bothered or judged—some situations provoke the exposure of the body. Swimming pools, beaches, or simply the hot weather make people undress, and thus their mutilated limb becomes visible. Many persons who were interviewed affirmed that they ended up avoiding such situations, which is a cause of suffering for them. Therefore, they refuse to go in such environments where they are made to feel like curiosities. Thus, if amputees shown in media seem to be perfectly integrated into common social activities, in reality, many of them are excluded de facto, because of the difficulty of access to social spaces.

4. Analyzing the gap between the fictive prosthetic body and the amputee’s real situations It now seems clear that the medial body is presented in a biased way, causing some misunderstanding about what the amputated body actually is. From fiction to faction, there is a consequent gap, which we must seek to understand. Where do these contradictions and paradoxes emerge from? In a collaboration with Nathanaël Jarrassé10, a researcher in robotics, some key aspects in the media coverage in relation to prosthetic devices11 were analyzed. Two were of particular importance precisely because they lead to a substantial bias in understanding and interpreting the abilities a prosthetic device may provide to an amputee using it.

10 Group AGATHE (Assistance to Gesture with Applications to THErapy), INSERM—U1150, ISIR— UMR7222, CNRS-UPMC, Paris 6. 11 Valentine Gourinat, Nathanaël Jarrassé (07/15). La personne amputée dans les médias: Quand l’ambiguïté des images bouleverse la compréhension du handicap et des technologies de compensation/restauration. Communication at the 4th annual conference of ALTER, European Society for Disability Research, Paris.

From Disability to Enhancement

4.1 Temporality of the medial body The first aspect concerns the reference to time. All the stories presented in different media ref lect only the end of the rehabilitation process, the focus being on a restored status of the patient’s body. What the media embeds in the collective imagination is a “finished product”. What one sees of this medial body are only results, not the process behind them. Thus, two temporal aspects are constantly absent from the media discourse: the “learning time” and the “using time”. While they are unknown by the public, they are crucial for each amputee’s life. The “learning time” refers to the necessary duration that the patient has to go through before being able to use his prosthesis correctly. It applies to both upper and lower limbs, even if the rehabilitation of lower limbs is particularly problematic and painful given the body’s weight on the residual limb. Using a prosthesis is not an easy process. It requires a real “reprogramming” of the body, muscles, and movements, and it implies both intense physical and intellectual efforts. The patients need to forget how their body worked previously, and restart everything anew. In the case of a lower limb, for example, the effort is equivalent to the mobilization of a child learning to walk. This learning never really ends; the amputees continue these efforts all through their life. The “using time” is related to the proper use of the prosthesis. The prosthesis is not a natural limb and it cannot be worn permanently. While it is necessary to wear it as much as possible, and it is also necessary to leave it each day to relieve the residual limb, in order to avoid injuries. Amputees are limited in their daily use of the prosthesis. They must remove it while they sleep, wash or in other specific situations involving immersion in water. Other conditions such as being tired, illness or heat may prove themselves to be challenging because the residual limb may swell or sweat, be irritated or bruised. Consequently, amputees are never permanently equipped. There is always a moment in which their disabled condition returns. At least the lower limb amputees, since upper limb amputees often develop a natural ability to use their residual arm, which is impossible when having amputated legs.

4.2 Misunderstanding the prosthetic performances The second bias refers to the concept of performance. Globally, prostheses are efficient for the performance of a unique task: walking, grasping, running, swimming etc. However, they are not designed for the performance of more than one task, whereas the human body, given its adaptability, plasticity, and f lexibility, is. Prostheses support thus a specialized performance. The confusion that the concept of performance may produce, leads to deep misunderstandings about the actual possibilities and perspectives of prostheses. Indeed, performance, as shown



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in the media, is restricted to a very specialized field but never understood in a holistic manner. Let us use the example of Pistorius again, since he was a real phenomenon in the media discourse, challenging the conception of performance and human enhancement. During the controversy about his wish to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games, several voices raised suggesting that his prostheses gave him an advantage over abled athletes (Burkett et al., 2011; Jones & Wilson, 2009). This assertion quickly expanded, making Pistorius a sort of superhuman, a contemporary cyborg, which is what the prosthetic body affirms. Actually the message that prostheses deliver is that in the future, it would be better to be amputated, since the skills that prostheses enable seem to be more effective than mere biological body skills. With the development of this imagery, one assists to the emergence of an outstanding iconography of this athlete, set in futuristic, stunning, or phantasmic scenes (for instance, the advertising campaigns he made for Nike or Mugler). What the public could not know was that Pistorius used his famous prostheses specifically for running, and nothing else (he is unable to walk with them, for example). They may offer an advantage, but only in a very specific context: the second half of the 200 and 400m race. His prostheses actually were a disadvantage in the beginning of the race at the track curves (because of the lack of ankle, it is difficult for a double amputee not to run in a straight line) and beyond 400m. So then, he is only efficient when running, and more specifically for 200 and 400m races. Except for this context, Pistorius’ prostheses do not particularly make him stronger or more efficient than someone else. His athletic body, as well as his intense physical and mental training were surely of help, his success relying not only on the efficiency of his prosthetic device. In everyday life, Pistorius walks with basic prostheses, and sometimes only using his residual legs. Few pictures of Pistorius walking with basic prostheses were shown the media depicting him rather as a hero running on “blades” (he was commonly nicknamed “Blade Runner”)12. His image changed suddenly in 2013, with the tragic death of his partner, Reeva Steenkamp. For the first time, Pistorius was not perceived as an enhanced human being anymore; he was pictured as being vulnerable, and the whole world discovered that he was a disabled man, physically challenged.

12 Hillary Whiteman, (2015). Who is “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius? Retrieved from CNN (accessed 03/12/15).

From Disability to Enhancement

5. What consequences does the medial body iconography has on amputees’ body and life? Understanding the existence of this gap between fictional and factional prosthetic body was not the only purpose of this text. One must now wonder if this medial body is problematic, since it has a great impact on the daily lives of amputees. Analyzing material from interviews and informal conversations with investors in the amputation field, two distinct but complementary approaches were identified, inf luenced by collective and media images. A first approach, which could be understood as optimistic, considers that these images—even if they are not representative—provide a positive and confident representation of amputees’ abilities and life situation. Media images can be very useful with respect to the recovery potentialities as well as to the process of one’s self-acceptance. The second approach is more skeptical and highlights that the audience is not always aware of the real difficulties in the everyday life of patients. Moreover, this ignorance has an impact on the way amputees are sometimes treated in complex or borderline social situations, in which the body is engaged and seems capable, such as in sport practices, car driving, etc (Gourinat, 2016).

5.1 Giving hope and self-confidence Patients facing the adversity of amputation are confronted with a process of negotiating violently their identity and physical deconstruction (Gourinat, 2014). They may lose all their points of reference, or hopes, and find themselves in a situation that seems irreversible at first glance. Their body changes suddenly, and with it all their life possibilities and perspectives. In the beginning, they are completely overwhelmed by the new situation, and regain their mobility by long and painful physical efforts. As already mentioned, using a prosthesis is a very complex process, and hospitalized patients do not know exactly what a prosthesis is, since they have never seen one before arriving in the hospital (except for all these famous robotic prostheses, which are clearly not the kind of prosthesis most of them will get). In such a moment, they are convinced they will have no future, and that they will never be able to walk or live as they used to previously. Some of them experience a period of deep despair, affirming that they would rather die than live with their new body situation. They consider themselves to be damaged and helpless for life. Given this situation, stories and images reported by the media in which patients with prostheses are presented as being strong, active, and capable of outstanding activities are positive for the amputees from two perspectives: First, it helps them to regain hope, and allows them to find the courage and perseverance in their rehabilitation efforts. Media images and reports allow for the prospect of physical rehabilitation and social reintegration, and regaining of self



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confidence and trust in future possibilities. Second, media images provide them with the possibility to affirm themselves in front of other people for who they will not be recognized as abled. Thus they can overcome marginalization, fear, or even disgust that amputation may sometimes provoke. Educating the public opinion in a positive manner, providing “common” stories in which amputees actively participate in social life, and the media reports contribute to reinforcing the confidence of amputees while facing unpleasant and ignorant opinions, as the following testimony reveals: VG: Do you think [the media coverage of Pistorius] changed the point of view of society? Julien: Yes. VG: In what sense? Julien: Ah... well now ... it’s clear that since..., uh, when people see me running, now they talk to me about Pistorius, they tell me “you, anyway, you have a prosthesis, you’re able to go really faster than us!” VG: Oh really, do people tell you this for real? Julien: Yeah. So it’s pretty funny. This is false, of course! But we cannot say that it is ... that it is negative. Because now we are considered more capable than a guy with two rods. It’s okay! VG: How do you feel with this idea that others consider you potentially more than body-abled, given your prosthesis? Julien: Well, I prefer that than the opposite! VG: And do you think it makes sense that they think so? Julien: It’s logical that they think it... after all, what do they know about it? But in fact I know it’s not true. It’s the contrary. But it does not matter (he smiles). It absolutely does not bother me!13 Like Julien, even after the rehabilitation process, many amputees are deeply concerned with the presence of disability as constituting the core of their social identity. Having managed to regain some mobility and capacities to cope with everyday situations, they do not consider themselves to be disabled anymore and refuse to be labelled as such. Being named “disabled” gives them the feeling of being at the margin, socially depreciated, or perceived as incompetent. Consequently, a certain number of amputees seek to prove that they fulfill “normal” functions in their private and public life and that they are able to do the same tasks like a bodyabled person. They try to erase stigmas and assert themselves as fully reintegrated into the social sphere similarly to everyone else: “I am a person like everyone else”

13 Interview with Julien, 45 years old, transtibial amputee, April 2013.

From Disability to Enhancement

they often claim. The medial body, as it is shown in collective discourses, can then be a first step in this direction.

5.2 Causing deception or discrimination Yet negative consequences also exist. Some shall be mentioned in the following:

1. Discrimination due to misunderstanding the disability’s reality This consequence is the most obvious and common in the analyzed discourses. Confronted with images of amputated patients who manage physical challenges well, the audience tends to believe that an amputee who stands and walks without apparent difficulties does not need to be differentiated from a body-abled person. This is obviously far from the reality amputees live with. Although the recovery abilities of some amputees are quite remarkable, they may face various difficulties. Being able to walk can be very painful and exhausting. This is why they still need adapted amenities and do not want to be judged for this, as is explained in the following excerpt: Suzanne: But still, we must not say that we can do everything, that’s totally wrong. It’s totally wrong ... Frankly, I do not agree when we ... There, uh, during the Olympics, when they talk about Pistorius, well... that’s good, but we do not see... VG: What’s behind all this... Suzanne: Yes. My colleagues sometimes say to me “Oh, you’ve seen!” And I say to them, “Wait, you do not see everything behind this... neither the money, nor the physiotherapists, nor the masseurs ...”. In everyday life we ​do not have that, ok! So it’s true that, for people who see the Olympics and make comments, I say “eh stop! You cannot do that with a normal prosthesis, nor with normal training”. So the image we have should not be as idyllic as that ... And when I see my colleagues, sometimes I say “today I’m having trouble with my leg, please bring me the files, uh I mean, try to make me walk as little as possible”, pfff, forget about it, huh! They see me ... they see me like that, they see that I walk, so they do not realize, they do not make the effort.14

2. Disappointment about equipment and rehabilitation possibilities In the early rehabilitation process, patients have no idea what to expect. While they are often hopeless regarding their perspectives to regain mobility, some, on the contrary, having seen pictures of efficient amputees and prostheses, expect to be able to use their prosthesis quickly and in good conditions. They do not evaluate the real difficulty and the pain the rehabilitation process implies. Thus the 14 Interview with Suzanne, 55 years old, transtibial amputation, March 2014.



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disappointment is even greater when they face various obstacles during the rehabilitation process. Besides, the quality of equipment is often overrated, and may be criticized by patients (Bidiss & Chau, 2007). Similarly, once back home after their stay in a rehabilitation center, they may feel a certain disappointment and anxiety while confronting the difficulties of managing the everyday life. These difficulties do not appear in collective imagination and may surprise some patients, convinced that the medial body is obvious (meaning that the interactions between the body and its material environment are natural and intuitive), that using a prosthesis is simple, effortless and painless, and that technological devices will solve their physical and motor issues. Which is obviously not the case, as the several arguments previously developed show. There is a strong gap between the fictional prosthetic body (as shown in the media discourse) and the factual prosthetic body (as lived by amputated people). The main aspects of this difference were developed in the first part of this text in order to help understand the measure of this medial body’s biased image. The amputated body is not naturally made to fit with prosthesis or to use them perfectly. The prosthetic body has to be entirely reconditioned; amputees have to learn how to move and act in a new way, which demands many efforts in using these devices, for limited and sometimes unsatisfactory results, as has been highlighted in the second part of this essay. The purpose of this contribution was to show that media discourse relies on a fictive vision of what an amputated body may be and what it may do with prostheses, and what consequences (both negative and positive) this medial body presentation may have for amputated people’s lives. Such considerations are never innocuous, and it is a social duty to benevolently accompany this population in their life course.

References Adam, Charles-Éric, & Trabal, Patrick (2013). Les performances controversées d’Oscar Pistorius en Athlétisme. In Cécile Collinet, & Philippe Terral (Eds.), Sport et controverses, (pp. 19-39). Presses universitaires de Rennes. Andrieu, Bernard (2007). L’intégration des hybrides Vers une disparition du handicap? In Joël Gaillard (Ed.), Pratiques sportives et handicap, (pp. 31-38). Lyon Chronique Sociale. Boëtsch, Gilles, Chappuis-Lucciani, Nicole, & Chevé Dominique (2006). Représentations du corps. Le biologique et le vécu. Normes et normalité. Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy. Burkett, Brendan, McNamee, Mike, & Potthast Wolfgang (2011). Shifting boundaries in sports technology and disability: Equal rights or unfair advantage in the case of Oscar Pistorius? Disability & Society, 26(5), 643-654.

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Davies, B., & Datta, D. (2003). Mobility outcome following unilateral lower limb amputation. Prosthetics & Orthotics International, 27 (3), 186-190. Goffman, Erving (1975). Stigmates Les usages sociaux du handicap. Paris Minuit. Gourinat, Valentine (2014). Déstructuration et restructuration identitaire du corps prothétique. Sociétés, 3(125), 127-135. Gourinat, Valentine (2016). Nouvelles technologies prothétiques et paradigme de l’homme augmenté Quel impact auprès des personnes appareillées ? In Charles Joye (Ed.), De l’être humain réparé à l’être humain augmenté Quels impacts sur l’individu et la société ? Chêne-Bourg: Éditions Médecine et Hygiène. Gourinat, Valentine (2016). Vivre avec une prothèse de jambe: Hybridité sociale et malentendus identitaires. In Pascal Hintermeyer, David Le Breton, & Gabriele Profita (Eds.), Les malentendus culturels dans le domaine de la santé, (pp. 303-313). Nancy: Presses Universitaires Nancy. Guïoux, Axel, Lasserre, Evelyne, & Goffette, Jérôme (2004). Cyborg: Approche anthropologique de l’hybridité corporelle bio-mécanique: Note de recherche. Anthropologie et Sociétés, 28(3), 187-204. Issanchou, Damien, & De Léséleuc, Eric (2013). Oscar Pistorius ou une catégorie sportive impossible à penser ? In Édouard Kleinpeter (Ed.), Revue Hermes, L’humain augmenté (pp. 131-136). Paris CNRS Editions. Jones, Carwyn, & Wilson, Cassie (2009). Defining advantage and athletic performance: The case of Oscar Pistorius. European Journal of Sport Science, 9 (2), 125131. Lazaro, Christophe (2013). Le corps et ses prothèses à l’ère des technologies mélioratives Aspects juridiques de l’affaire Pistorius. In Nathalie Grandjean (Ed.), Corps et technologies. Penser l’hybridité, (pp. 33-84). Bruxelles: Peter Lang. Le Breton, David (2002). Vers la fin du corps: Cyberculture et identité. Revue internationale de philosophie, 4 (222), 491-509. Le Breton, David (2012). L’interactionnisme symbolique. Paris: PUF. L’Équipe (26/10/15). Markus Rehm: Trop loin pour être vrai? Retrieved from L’Équipe (accessed 26/10/15) Maestrutti, Marina (2011). Humain, transhumain, posthumain: Représentations du corps entre incomplétude et amélioration. Journal International de Bioéthique, 3, (22), 51-66. Marcellini, Anne, et al. (2010). La chose la plus rapide sans jambes: Oscar Pistorius ou la mise en spectacle des frontières de l’humain. Politix, 2(90), 139-165. Moser, Ingunn (2005). De la normalisation aux cyborg studies: Comment repenser le handicap. Cahier du genre, 1(38), 127-162. Murphy, Robert F., Scheer, Jessica, Murphy, Yolanda, & Mack, Richard (1989). Physical Disability and Social Liminality: A Study in the Rituals of Adversity. Social Science and Medicine, 26(2), 235-242.



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Nathan, Stuart (04/01/18). Future prosthetic: Towards the Bionic Human. Retrieved from The Engineer (accessed 04/01/18). Quesnel, Alexandre (2013). Devenir fonctionnel d’une cohorte de patients amputés de membre inférieur (M.D. Thesis). Faculté de médecine et de pharmacie de Rouen. Stern, Carl (17/07/15) Bravely baring it all: Photographer captures amputee war veterans posing naked and proudly revealing their injuries in powerful picture series. Retrieved from The DailyMail (accessed 17/07/15). Sticker, Henri-Jacques ([1982] 2013). Corps infirmes et sociétés (4th ed.). Paris: Dunod. Taylor, Spence M., et al. (2005). Preoperative clinical factors predict postoperative functional outcomes after major lower limb amputation: An analysis of 533 consecutive patients. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 42(2), 227-235. Templin, Jacob (02/02/18). The US government just gave someone a $120-million robotic arm to use for a year. Retrieved from Quartz (accessed 08/02/18). The Guardian (15/06/13). The future of robotics: In a transhuman world, the disabled will be the ones without prosthetic limbs. Retrieved from The Guardian (accessed 16/06/13) Walker, Marley (31/10/16). Bionic Artist Viktoria Modesta Transcends the Human Body. Retrieved from Wired (accessed 31/10/6). Whiteman, Hillary (2015). Who is “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius? Retrieved from CNN (accessed 03/12/15).

Disability as Malleability: The Prosthetic Metaphor, Merleau-Ponty and the Case of Aimee Mullins Luna Dolezal

1. Introduction: The Prosthetic Metaphor The trope of the prosthesis has become commonplace in philosophy, cultural theory, and posthuman discourse, utilized by scholars who are concerned with the human body’s porous and malleable nature when it comes to its interaction with tools and technology.1 Surpassing its meaning in a medical context of an artificial limb or implement which is attached to the body in order to restore or replace a bodily lack due to illness, defect, accident, or disability, prosthesis has come to signify augmentation, enhancement and a posthuman fascination with cyborg bodies: the blending of human and technology to triumphantly overcome the ‘natural’ limitations of the human body. Prostheses, as a metaphor and as a material reality, instantiate the possibilities for the medial body—the subject of this volume—creating a slippage between fact and fiction, where a posthuman bodily imaginary is increasingly made manifest within the factual and material structures of embodied life. Freud famously invokes the prosthetic metaphor in Civilizations and Its Discontents, referencing how the subject is not simply bounded by the ‘biological’ body, but is continually augmented and transformed by cultural artifacts which it incorporates into its own corporeal space. Through technology, according to Freud, man becomes transformed from a “frail animal organism”2 to a God-like and magnificent being:

1 For a discussion of the use of the prosthesis metaphor in contemporary theory see: Marquard Smith & Joanne Morra, (2004). Introduction. In Marquard Smith, & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2 Sigmund Freud, (2004). Civilization and Its Discontents (David McLintock, Trans.), (p. 36). London: Penguin Books.


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With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning … Man has, as it were, become a prosthetic god. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent: but those organs have not grown on him and they still give him much trouble at times.3 Man approaches the “omnipotence and omniscience”4 that he attributes to his Gods, extending the body well beyond its physical capabilities (“engines place gigantic forces at his disposal, which he can direct, like his muscles”5), geographical particularity (“the ship and the aeroplane ensure that neither water nor air can hinder his movements”6), and the limitations of memory (“the camera […] [and] the gramophone […] both are essentially materializations of his innate faculty of recall, of his memory”7). Prosthesis, invoked in this manner, is a metaphor for the technological extension of human capacities to overcome the limitations inherent to the ‘natural’ human body. In this vein, the prosthetic metaphor is also deployed to signify the body as inherently f luid, malleable, and dynamic. As the theorist Elizabeth Grosz asserts: “Living bodies tend toward prosthesis.”8 This claim invokes the fact that the body is not static or bounded: “its borders, edges and contours are ‘osmotic’—they have the remarkable power of incorporating outside and inside in an ongoing exchange.”9 As such, the living body is in a constant dynamic interaction with its social and material milieu, incorporating instruments, tools and technologies as prostheses to generate “new bodily capacities.”10 In this manner, the enabling technology is figured as an extension of the ‘natural’ body’s capacities: “a microscope becomes just more vision, or a printing press just faster, permanent speech.”11

3 Sigmund Freud, (1962). Civilization and Its Discontents (James Strachey, Trans.), (p. 42). New York: W.W. Norton. For thematic consistency, this passage is taken from James Strachey’s 1962 translation of Civilization and its Discontents. The formulation is slightly different in the 2004, McLintock version from which all other passages are taken. In McLintock’s translation of the passage reads: “Man has become, so to speak, a god with artificial limbs” (p. 36). 4 Ibid., p. 36. 5 Ibid., p. 35. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Elizabeth Grosz, (2005). Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power, (p. 146). Durham: Duke University Press. 9 Elisabeth A. Grosz, (1994). Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, (p. 79). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 10 Elizabeth Grosz, 2005, p. 216. 11 Sarah S. Jain, (1999). The Prosthetic Imagination: Enabling and Disabling the Prosthesis Trope. Science, Technology and Human Values 24 (1), 39.

Disability as Malleability

The triumphant and positive nature of the prosthetic metaphor as it has been deployed in the passages above and in recent theory by a variety of other thinkers—Donna Haraway, Jean Baudrillard, and Paul Virilio, for example—invokes a series of tensions and contradictions. First, the metaphor is mobilized and given credence by the liberal humanist ideologies of self-determination, individuality, and freedom which underpin technological innovation. However, at the same time, it references the posthumanist visions of cyborg bodies, f luid identities, and radical relationality, unsettling the unity and possessive individualism of the subject central to the doctrine of liberal humanism. Second, although the prosthetic metaphor arises from an inherent dualism which dominates liberal thought—the body is figured as the primary prosthetic: it is the machine-like ‘technology’ that is controlled and utilized by consciousness12—the metaphor relies completely on a phenomenological and non-dualistic understanding of the body: as we shall see, in order to incorporate technologies into the body and participate in this ‘ongoing exchange’ with the world, consciousness must be the body and any meaningful theoretical separation of mind and body must effectively be done away with. In this way, the prosthetic metaphor effaces and disavows the body while simultaneously reaffirming its central place in subjectivity. These contradictions are most troubling when considering the fact that the prosthetic metaphor arises from the disabled body and assumptions about that body as deficient, lacking and in need of enhancement. While the metaphor initially removed the prosthetic from the realm of disability into a fantastical world of technological innovation and possibility, as in Freud’s technologically awestruck passage, it has come full circle and has returned to the disabled body. Increasingly the prosthesis is becoming literal: signaling the technological reproduction of real human limbs and the materialization of Haraway’s famous “cyborg”, “a hybrid of machine and organism.”13 As prosthetic technologies become more sophisticated and instantiate not only the restoration of the body, but the concrete possibilities of superhuman enhancement, then the prosthetic metaphor has become enf leshed in real human bodies, destabilizing the very category of ‘disability’ (for example, consider the case of Oscar Pistorius who was barred in 2008 from competing for a slot on the South African track and field Olympic team because his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over the ‘able’ bodied runners). However, invoking freedom, technology and human triumph over the limitations of biology, and in particular over the limitations of disability, has been fig-

12 Ibid. 13 Donna Haraway, (1985). Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. Socialist Review 80, 65.



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ured as “metaphorical opportunism” by some thinkers.14 Vivian Sobchack, in her insightful analysis of the contemporary use of the prosthetic metaphor, refers to the “scandal” of the metaphorical displacement of the prosthesis, citing her own experience as an ordinary prosthesis user, after an above-the-knee amputation as a result of soft tissue cancer, and the political atrocities of mass amputations by land mines in Cambodia. In her words: “the scandal of the metaphor is that it has become a fetishized and ‘unf leshed-out’ catchword that functions vaguely as the ungrounded and ‘f loating signifier’ for a broad and variegated critical discourse on technoculture that includes little of these prosthetic realities.”15 However, while this opportunistic use of the trope of the prosthesis is in part characterized by a “disdain for disabled bodies,”16 occulting the serious issues of inequality and social justice which most individuals with actual disabilities face, as Sobchack rightly points out, at the same time it invokes concrete possibilities for technological interventions which are materially empowering and potentially politically transformative in terms of the lived experience of disability and the use of prostheses. Freud’s own invocation of the prosthetic metaphor contains this double-edge of both limitation and possibility. His mention of the human use of prostheses contains a caveat of caution: our auxiliary organs, although rich with the potential to make us magnificent, also ‘give … much trouble at times.’ This caution, as Sarah S. Jain points out, may have arisen from his own experience with a prosthesis, a palate replaced because of throat cancer in 1923, without which he could neither eat nor speak and which caused him immense pain and discomfort.17 Freud’s prosthetic technology simultaneously empowered and injured him and his material experience serves well to describe the potency of the prosthetic metaphor as “both enabling and wounding.”18 In what follows, I will unpack the prosthetic metaphor and discuss its possibilities and limitations for considering the trope of the medial body, particularly with reference to issues that concern disability politics. First, I will consider how the metaphor has currency in theory, or in other words, how the metaphor works in the first instance. I will do so through a discussion of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological descriptions of the body schema and tool usage, themes which demonstrate how the lived human body has the capacity for mediality—blend14 David T. Mitchell & Sharon L. Snyder, (1997). The Body and Physical Dif ference: Discourses of Disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. As quoted in: Smith and Morra, 2. 15 Vivian Sobchack, (2006). A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality. In Marquard Smith & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, (p. 21). London: MIT Press. 16 Sarah S. Jain, 1999, p. 44. 17 Ibid., p. 31. 18 Ibid., p. 32.

Disability as Malleability

ing self and other, fact and fiction, tool and world. I will draw a distinction between the experience of utilizing a prosthesis as an extension (in the case of tool usage) and prosthesis as bodily incorporation (in the case of an artificial limb). I will then turn to consider the figure of Aimee Mullins as a living exemplar of the enf leshment of the prosthetic metaphor. Mullins is a below-the-knee double amputee who enjoys mainstream renown as a world-record breaking athlete, fashion model, inspirational speaker, and actress. Looking at artistic and commercial representations of Mullins, I will illustrate how the theoretical contradictions and tensions of the prosthetic metaphor play out concretely in terms of promoting the possibilities of body malleability for disabled bodies, considering the potentials and pitfalls for disability politics.

2. Merleau-Ponty and Body Malleability The prosthetic metaphor has currency as a result of the inherent malleability of the human body: it is able to incorporate tools and technologies into lived experience, transforming and extending bodily capabilities. From the simplest tool usage— wielding a hammer, for instance—to complex skilled interactions with technology—touch typing or remote surgery19, for example—an inherent characteristic of human subjectivity is its capacity to incorporate and accommodate tools into the body such that action, perception, or appearance can be seamlessly transformed, extended or augmented in some manner.20 It is through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological description of the features of embodiment, in particular his articulation of the body schema, that a concrete understanding of how the body has the capacity to engage with technologies and successfully integrate them into lived experience is perhaps best illustrated.21 Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological descriptions of embodied subjectivity make salient the fact that the human body is not a discrete object interacting with the ‘external’ world in a machine-like manner that can be precisely described by the 19  I discuss the phenomenology of remote surgery through telepresence at length in the following article: Luna Dolezal, (2009). The Remote Body: The Phenomenology of Telepresence and Reembodiment. Human Technology 5 (2). This is a point made by Heidegger in his discussion of tool usage in Being and Time. An essential 20  characterization of what it means to be human or Dasein is a capacity for engaging with tools and technology and for objects in the world to be ‘ready-to-hand’. See: Martin Heidegger, (1998). Being and Time, (John Macquarie, & Edward Robinson, Trans.), (pp. 67 ff). Oxford: Blackwell. I discuss the following aspects of Merleau-Ponty’s account of the lived body at length in Chap21  ter 2 of: Luna Dolezal, (2015). The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Some of the passages that follow here are partially reproduced from this more extended work.



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natural sciences, where a neat separation between self (inner) and world (outer) characterizes experience. Instead, the body is intertwined with the world, f luidly arranging itself in response to its environment and situation. The rearrangement or malleability of the body, in terms of appearance, action, habit, and comportment, in response to its spatial situation, is achieved as a result of a set of capacities that Merleau-Ponty describes as the body schema. He writes: “We grasp external space through our bodily situation. A ‘corporeal or postural schema’ gives us at every moment a global, practical, and implicit notion of the relation between our body and things, of our hold on them […] Our body is not in space like things; it inhabits or haunts space.”22 This corporeal, or body, schema is a system of motor and postural functions that are in constant operation below the level of self-conscious motor-movement, action and perception.23 Merleau-Ponty f leshes out the idea of the body schema through his discussion of the “habit body.”24 The habit body comprises the body schema: it is a sedimented set of tacit skills and techniques that make regular and repeatable (rather than purely spontaneous) action possible. Acquired habit not only makes repeatable action possible, but also extends and enriches the capacities and capabilities of the body. As Merleau-Ponty argues, “[h]abit expresses our power of dilating our being-in-the-world, or changing our existence by appropriating fresh instruments.”25 As manifested in the body schema, the body has the ability to acquire and sediment certain behavioural patterns into its repertoire of action: We should understand the “acquisition of habit as a rearrangement and renewal of the corporeal schema.”26 However, this sedimentation of habit in the body schema does not imply a static or inert set of habits: habitual body memory combines regularity and repeatability with uniqueness; the body can acquire and retain new habits and skills, and furthermore, adapt those skills to suit a range of situations and spatial and social configurations. In doing so, technologies or tools can be skillfully ap22 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1964). An Unpublished Text by Maurice Merleau-Ponty: A Prospectus of His Work, (Arleen B. Dallery, Trans.). In The Primacy of Perception, (p. 5). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 23 It should be noted that there is some confusion about the term ‘body schema’ in Colin Smith’s English translation of Phénoménologie de la Perception. Merleau-Ponty uses the term schéma corporel (body schema), however it is regularly translated by Smith as ‘body image.’ Whereas the body image denotes the body’s proprioceptive awareness of itself, the body schema can be understood to be a system of learned body habits and techniques which function automatically that make it possible to move and control the body without the need for conscious intention or reflection. See, for example: Merleau-Ponty, (2006). Phenomenology of Perception, (p. 113). London: Routledge. And (1945) Phénoménologie de la perception, (p. 128). Paris: Editions Gallimard. 24 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 2006, 95. 25 Ibid., p. 166. 26 Ibid., p. 164.

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propriated by the body. Merleau-Ponty gives the example of organist to illustrate the malleability and f lexibility of the body schema with respect to an ‘instrument’ or tool: It is known that an experienced organist is capable of playing an organ which he does not know, which has more or fewer manuals, and stops differently arranged, compared with those on the instrument he is used to playing. He needs only an hour’s practice to be ready to perform his programme … He does not learn objective spatial positions for each stop and pedal, nor does he commit them to ‘memory.27 As this example demonstrates, learning a skill is not a matter of committing movement to memory through performing some sort of cognitive act. Rather, sedimentation of habit occurs at the level of the body, not of the mind: “it is the body which ‘catches’ … and ‘comprehends’ movement.”28 The significance or meaning of a motor movement is lodged in the body. This bodily knowledge is revealed in action: “It is knowledge in the hands, which is forthcoming only when bodily effort is made and cannot be formulated in detachment from that effort.”29 To further illustrate this point about how the body incorporates technologies into its field of action and perception, Merleau-Ponty in fact turns to disability. He gives the example of a blind man who uses a walking stick to aid in his maneuvering around the physical world. After a while, the blind man uses the stick as though it were an extension of his own body. His body schema envelops the stick: “Once the [blind man’s] stick has become a familiar instrument, the world of feel-able things recedes and now begins, not at the outer skin of the hand, but at the end of the stick.”30 The blind man has incorporated the stick into the body schema of his lived body. It has become “a bodily auxiliary, an extension of the bodily synthesis.”31 In a similar vein, Don Ihde offers the example of eyeglasses, a simple technology that is absorbed by the body schema. The weight of the glasses on the ears and the bridge of the nose become imperceptible: “My glasses become part of the way I ordinarily experience my surroundings; they ‘withdraw’ and are barely noticed, if at all.”32 Insofar as we take technologies into our experience by perceiv27 Ibid., p. 167- 68. 28 Ibid., p. 165. 29 Ibid., p. 166. 30 Ibid., p. 175-76. 31 Ibid., p. 176. 32 Don Ihde, (1990). Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth, (p. 73). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.



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ing through them, the technology becomes embodied. “I-glasses-world” becomes “(I-glasses)-world.”33 As such, the boundaries of the body schema are in some sense f luid, expanding, and contracting to accommodate and incorporate objects. Ihde, following Merleau-Ponty, makes the point that “the experience of one’s body image is not fixed but malleably extendable and/or reducible in terms of the material or technological mediations that may be embodied.”34 The body can incorporate tools and technological prostheses, engulfing them into the body schema in order to have experiences of perception, action, and motor intentionality in and through them. As Ihde comments: “We are our bodies—but in that very basic notion one also discovers that our bodies have an amazing plasticity and polymorphism that is often brought out precisely in our relations with technologies.”35 On this account, Merleau-Ponty acknowledges that the body, self, and world are necessarily intertwined; one cannot be said to precede the other: the “subject is his body, his world and his situation, by a sort of exchange.”36 The lived body has a constant and ever-changing relation to the physical objects and people in its proximity. However, it is important to understand that this physical relation to objects is not a discrete interaction: I do not engage with objects as though they were objects of the natural sciences. My physical interaction with objects and with other bodies can be described by the physical laws of science, but it cannot be reduced to that description. Rather, the body is shaped by the world and in turn shapes the world, and with habitual action, this happens in an exchange before rational or conscious thought. Just as the blind man incorporates his stick, a scuba diver, for example, does not have an indifferent causal relation to his breathing apparatus, nor is a policeman’s uniform an arbitrary accessory. Each of these objects modifies the intentional attitude of the lived body, expanding and transforming the scope of possible activity. Moreover, once an object, tool or technology is part of the body schema, the subject modifies his or her actions to accommodate the incorporated object: A woman may, without any calculation, keep a safe distance between the feather in her hat and things which might break it off. She feels where the feather is just as we feel where our hand is. If I am in the habit of driving a car, I enter a narrow opening and see that I can ‘get through’ without comparing the width of the opening with that of the wings, just as I go through a doorway without checking the width of the doorway with that of my body… The blind man’s stick has ceased to be an object for him … its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope 33 Ibid. 34 Don Ihde, (1979). Technics and Praxis, (p.74). Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing Group. 35 Don Ihde, (2002). Bodies in Technology, (p. 138). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 36 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 72.

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and active radius of touch … To get used to a hat, a car or a stick is to be transplanted into them, or conversely, to incorporate them into the bulk of our own body.37 As a result, the subject, once familiar with an object, will interact and engage with it in a pre-ref lective and pre-conscious manner, as though it were an extension of one’s own body. However, when we move from considering prosthesis as metaphor for tool usage, as Merleau-Ponty describes in his examples of the car, the hat or the blind man’s stick, to prosthesis as an artificial limb utilized to replace a missing body part, an ambiguity arises. When Merleau-Ponty implores that getting used to a hat, a car or a stick is ‘to incorporate them into the bulk of our own body’, the question arises: Is there a tangible phenomenological difference between the blind man’s stick and an amputee’s artificial leg? Is there a difference between extending the body and incorporating something into the body? This is an ambiguity that Merleau-Ponty does not address and, as De Preester and Tsakiris point out, a vagueness on this point exists in his work. He considers the blind man’s stick to be ‘incorporated’ into the bulk of his body while, at the same time, he discusses the stick as a ‘bodily auxiliary, an extension of the bodily synthesis.’38 However, conf lating the literal prosthesis with the metaphoric in terms of political, biological, and phenomenological conditions seems in most instances nonsensical. As Jain remarks, “both artificial legs and automobiles are media of mobility”39; however, a completely different landscape of political and biological ‘needs’ are instantiated in their respective ‘uses’, and furthermore, the phenomenological experience of the body and its relation to “non-corporeal items”40 differs significantly in both cases. In fact, it is precisely this difference in the experience between extension and incorporation, or in other words, prosthesis as a metaphor for tool usage versus as a material artificial limb that De Preester and Tsakiris consider in their work. While an external tool or technology is acknowledged as separate from the body, prosthesis users have the reported need to “transform the prosthetic limb from an ‘inert supplement’ or ‘extracorporeal structure’ into a corporeal one.”41 Instead

37 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 2006, p. 165. 38 Helena De Preester & Manos Tsakiris, (2009). Body-Extension Versus Body-Incorporation: Is There a Need for a Body Model? Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. 8 (3), 307-319. 39 Sarah S. Jain, 1999, p. 40. 40 Helena De Preester and Manos Tsakiris, 2009, p. 307. Craig D. Murray, (2004). An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Embodiment of 41  Artificial Limbs. Disability and Rehabilitation 26 (16), 964. See also: Craig D. Murray, (2008) Embodiment and Prosthetics. In Pamela Gallagher, Deirdre Desmond, & Malcolm MacLachlan (Eds.), Psychoprosthetics. London: Springer.



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of remaining a mere tool to be utilized by the body, which can be put down or discarded with no rupture to one’s sense of bodily identity or feeling of wholeness, like the driver with his car or the women with her feathered hat, the prosthesis “should become a part of the body.”42 And perhaps Don Ihde’s example of the (I-glasses) composite is in some sense illustrative of this phenomenon. However, in contrast to glasses which augment, rather than replace, the eyes, the stated aims for the use of prosthetic limbs within a therapeutic context, are to “restore some of the functions, as well as offering some aesthetic approximation, of an anatomical limb.”43 The prosthesis should stand in for a missing limb, in terms of both appearance and comportment, rather than be merely an appendage to the bounded body. It is precisely this point that De Preester and Tsakiris conclude to be one of the most important differences between the extension of a body with a tool and the replacement of a body part with a prosthesis; it is what they call the “experience of completion.”44 In short, the prosthesis ‘completes’ the body and makes it feel ‘whole’ in a way that an external tool does not. In this way, the prosthesis is more than a material object as a tool that can be discarded or replaced, but instead is an existentially significant and emotionally charged sentient part of the self. Vivian Sobchack notes, while phenomenologically analyzing her own experience of her prosthesis: “Now, having incorporated the prosthetic, I primarily sense my leg as an active, quasi-absent ‘part’ of my whole body.”45 However, it must be noted that this ‘experience of completion’ is certainly not the rule and some prosthesis users report that using a prosthesis remains a simply practical affair equivalent to tool usage.46 For instance, in correspondence to the metaphoric invocation of the prosthetic as described above, an artificial leg is seen by some users as merely providing solutions to motility problems—like an automobile or bicycle—extending and enabling movement beyond ‘natural’ or ‘biological’ means. One user reports: It [the prosthesis] is a tool in the sense that it enables me to do that which would be much more difficult without. [I wear a prosthetic] simply because it allows me to

42 Helena De Preester & Tsakiris, 2009, pp. 309-310. 43 Craig D. Murray, 2004, p. 963. 44 Helena De Preester & Manos Tsakiris, 2009, p. 318. 45 Vivian Sobchack, (2010). Living a ‘Phantom Limb’: On the Phenomeology of Bodily Integrity. Body and Society 16 (3), 62. 46 Craig D. Murray, 2004, p. 970-71. In other cases, users find it difficult to adjust to an amputation and using a prosthetic limb. See, for instance: Steven L. Kurzman, (2001). Presence and Prosthesis: A Response to Nelson and Wright. Cultural Anthropology 16 (3), 379.

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get from point A to B faster and easier than I could on crutches. It permits me maximum freedom of choices available to me for mobility. And I like being mobile.47 When the user sees the prosthesis as a tool or extension, approximating the appearance of a real f lesh limb seems to be of less importance: “I wanted tools. I wasn’t interested in looking like I had a hand … I wanted a socket for a swim fin, bike breaking device, things to allow me to be more active and productive.”48 This sentiment has guided recent prosthetic technological development, as the need to approximate anthropomorphic conventions in terms of appearance have been superseded by function and efficiency—consider again Oscar Pistorius’s running legs which have the appearance of C-shaped metallic blades. In short, actually applying the prosthetic metaphor to real disabled bodies produces a doubling effect: the prosthetic as tool is in fact a prosthetic, however, as this prosthetic may extend the body’s capacities beyond the limits of ‘normal’ ability (as a result of his legs, Oscar runs faster than his ‘abled’ bodied peers), the category of ‘disability’ is destabilized or put into question. In the case of athletes who utilize cutting-edge prosthetic technology, like Oscar Pistorius and Aimee Mullins, who I will discuss at length here below, the prosthetic metaphor has the capacity to efface disability: ‘disabled’ individuals are figured as savvy and skilled tool users, whose tools just happen to stand in for a missing limb or body part.

3. The Case of Aimee Mullins I will turn now to consider representations of the figure of Aimee Mullins as a means to reveal the ‘enabling and wounding’ tensions inherent in the prosthetic metaphor.49 Born missing both her fibula bones, a condition called fibular hemimelia, Aimee Mullins had both her legs amputated below the knee when she was one year old in order to enable mobility through the use of prosthetic limbs. Utilizing a variety of prostheses and surpassing the abilities of most of her able-bodied peers, Mullins has successfully pursued a variety of careers and received many accolades in the public realm. She has been an Olympic athlete who set world records in the 1996 Paralympics and was appointed manager of the American 47  Craig D. Murray, 2004, p. 971. Ibid. 48  Elsewhere, I have also considered Mullins as a figure that exemplifies the tensions in main49  stream representations of the posthuman, especially with respect to women’s bodies. Some of the passages in this section ‘The Case of Aimee Mullins’ are reproduced from this other work. See: Luna Dolezal, (2017). Representing Posthuman Embodiment: Considering Disability and the Case of Aimee Mullins. Women’s Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal 46 (1).



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Paralympic team for the London 2012 Olympics. She has appeared on numerous print and television ads and has worked as an haute couture fashion model for designers such as Alexander McQueen. In 1999, Mullins was voted one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. She currently has appeared on TED as a motivational speaker, and in 2011 she was named the global ambassador for L’Oréal Paris (an honour recently shared by the mega-celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Julianne Moore). Aimee Mullins’ career as a public figure is the result of her appearance on a TED talk in 1998.50 At that time, Mullins had just competed in the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics running on prototype carbon graphite Flex-Foot legs that were designed by Van Phillips, a leading prosthetics designer. Priced at approximately $20,000 per leg,51 the Flex-Foot design is revolutionary. Unlike all previous prosthetics, the legs collect kinetic energy from the user’s steps and store it as potential energy, allowing the wearer to jump and run. Now used routinely by elite athletes—including famously by Oscar Pistorius—Mullins was the first para-athlete to wear the FlexFoot design, which Philips dubbed the “Cheetah Foot” because their C-shape was modeled after the hind legs of a cheetah.52 Running on these legs, Mullins broke world records in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints and the long jump. After her initial TED appearance, Mullins launched her career as a model and actress. As a public figure whose success is driven by her innovative use of prosthetic limbs, Mullins is outspoken about the possibilities for exploring the creative potential afforded by prostheses and body technologies. During her own career as a model, athlete, and actress, Mullins has used a wide range of prosthetic legs and, initially, her success was largely based on her bodily difference and the artistic possibilities her immediately malleable body presented to fashion designers, artists, and photographers. For instance, when she appeared on the runway for fashion designer Alexander McQueen she used a pair of hand carved wooden legs made of solid ash adorned with intricate designs of grapevines and magnolias. Starring in the American artist Matthew Barney’s film opus The Cremaster Cycle Mullins appears in a variety of legs which defy anthropomorphic convention. These include transparent ‘glass’ legs (made out of polyurethane or bowling ball material) and legs molded out of earth with potato plants protruding from inside them. At the end of the film she appears as a bleeding, blindfolded and noosed Madonna figure, astride a chariot tethered to five lambs wearing transparent legs

50 Aimee Mullins: Changing My Legs—and My Mindset [video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted. com/talks/aimee_mullins_on_running.html. 51 Vivian Sobchack, 2006, p. 31. 52 Amy Goldswasser, (1998). Wonder Woman. I.D.: The International Design Magazine, 48.

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that end in tentacles.53 Another striking image in the film is her role as the cheetah divinity—a reference to the athletic potential afforded by her ‘Cheetah Foot’ legs. In this role, Mullins appears as a figure that is half-woman, half-cheetah with a movable tail and articulated paws at the end of tapered furry cheetah legs. Mullins calls these sorts of legs “wearable sculpture”54 and she is inspired by the possibilities that artistic and technological experiments with prostheses may hold. In a TED talk entitled ‘It’s Not Fair Having Twelve Pairs of Legs’, she speaks of the importance for creativity, poetry, and “whimsy” with respect to body malleability and prosthetic experimentation, implicitly advocating the malleability and innovation with respect to the body inherent in the prosthetic metaphor. She muses about the transformative and enabling potential prosthetic technologies can hold for disability, comparing playful experimentation with prosthetic technologies to poetry: “Poetry is what elevates the banal and neglected object to a realm of art. It can transform the thing that might have made people fearful into something that invites them to look … and maybe even understand.”55 She cites animals and superheroes as inspiration to create “super-abled” bodies which move “away from the need to replicate human-ness as the only aesthetic ideal.”56 Mullins herself embodies this potential. Exploiting the mainstream currency her classical good looks hold, the majority of representations of Mullins fetishize a particular posthuman cyborgian body ideal where the prosthetic metaphor is enf leshed in a “real” yet simultaneoulsy “imaginative” human body.57 In these (sorts of) images, which mostly appear in popular magazines, fashion shoots, and advertisements, Mullins is usually sexualized as a hyper-attractive able-bodied woman, “who just happens to be an amputee.”58 A photo shoot for Italian WIRED Magazine with the headline ‘Evolution in Progress’ demonstrates this tendency.59 Mullins is in wholehearted and playful collusion: “I want to be a Bond girl … What if I had weapons in my legs? I could take one off and pull out an Uzi! Legs Galore— that would be me!”60

53  Marquard Smith, (2006). The Vulnerable Articulate: James Gillingham, Aimee Mullins and Matthew Barney, In Marquard Smith, & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, (p. 60). London: MIT Press. Aimee Mullins. Aimee Mullins: It’s Not Fair Having 12 Pairs of Legs [video file]. Retrieved from http:// 54 Ibid. 55  Ibid. 56  Vivian Sobchack, 2006, p. 28. 57  Marquard Smith, 2006, p. 58. 58  59 See WIRED, Italia, No. 4, 22 Giugno 2009. 60 People Staff, (1999). Aimee Mullins: Athlete/Model. People Magazine 51. (17), 144.



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Images such as the WIRED cover, demonstrate how utilizing cutting-edge technologies have the potential to liberate Mullins’ radically non-normative body from the limiting categories—disabled, Other, crippled—ordinarily assigned to double-amputees. As Marquard Smith indicates, Mullins embodies “posthuman progress”: “the ultimate victory of technology over deficiency.”61 Images of Mullins, where her athletic and attractive body—fulfilling the hyper-normal expectations of a fashion spread or celebrity photo shoot—is juxtaposed against her cyborg-alien-metallic prostheses, subvert a social condition: her “status as an amputee must be acknowledged and disavowed simultaneously.”62 As Maria Neicu points out, in her discussion of the Portraits of Aimee Mullins series by the well-known photographer Howard Schatz, “the prosthetic limb does not represent a need to hide or replace the biological loss with a disguised normality. On the contrary, by refusing conformation to social expectation, it stands as a symbol of a power to create whatever it is that the wearer wants to create in that space.”63 Mullins has effectively shed any limiting qualifiers, surpassing the abilities and accomplishments of most of her ‘able’ bodied peers. Indeed, her status as ‘disabled’ has been effectively destabilized through the literal enf leshment of the prosthetic metaphor: her creative use of prosthetics demonstrates the enabling potential the technologically-mediated body has for transcending potentially limiting and essentialising categories such as ‘disability’. The television advertisement made by the British internet company Freeserve,64 epitomizes the enf leshment of the prosthetic metaphor with respect to Mullins’ body, using her status as a hybrid figure—technology-human-animal—to disrupt conventional ideas about disability, while simultaneously exploiting her status as an elite fashion model and athlete as a vector for aspirational advertising. In this advertisement, screened in April 2000, Mullins appears as a runway model, preparing for an exclusive fashion show. A child’s voice opens the ad, asking, ’What do I like about Aimee?’, immediately setting up a relationship of desirability with respect to Mullins and her embodiment. Mullins appears on a fashion catwalk in a variety of legs, including the ‘Cheetah Foot’ running legs—her real-life achievements, modeling and running, are made explicitly salient. As such, it is not just Mullins’ unique technologically-mediated embodiment that serves as currency in the ad, but also her real-life achievements. The climax of the ad inter-splices images of a cheetah with images of Mullins running down the catwalk to a cheering and exuberant crowd. The crux of the 61 Marquard Smith, 2006, p. 58. 62 Ibid. 63 Maria Neicu, (2012). Prosthetics Imagery: Negotiating the Identity of Enhanced Bodies. Platform, 6 (2), 51. 64 Freeserve. Catwalk. Retreived from

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ad is the implicit suggestion that Mullins’ embodiment—animal, technology, and human intertwined—is not only highly desirable—implicitly putting forth the perhaps shocking suggestion that the little girl would want to be Aimee, legless and all65—but also that the freedom to radically transform the body—using costume, makeup, prostheses, technology, fashion—brings the feeling, as she says, of ‘total accomplishment’. The implied freedom of her legs and the freedom of speed in the ad, all set within the highly desirable and exclusive world of couture fashion, fade to the closing words ‘Be Free’ which turn into ‘Be Freeserve’ on the screen.66 What mainstream representations of the enf leshment of the prosthetic metaphor, such as this Freeserve ad, make increasingly prominent is the idea that the malleable and technologically-enhanced body is desirable, explicitly tying the use of prosthetics to a cultural logic which infuses the ideologies of neoliberalism—freedom, private property, capital, commodification—to consumer choices one makes to modify the body. Associated with the super-elite worlds of couture fashion and Olympic-level competitive sport, the prosthetically enhanced body is, like Mullins, ‘free’ and ‘accomplished’, and the use of prosthetic limbs is equated to some sort of sophisticated fashion choice. When viewed in this way, ethical questions about the availability and accessibility of bodily enhancement arise. Why should enabling prosthetic technologies be limited to those with existing bodily deficiencies? Admiring Aimee’s beauty, speed, and accomplishments, explicitly empowered by her prosthetic legs, why shouldn’t the little girl in the Freeserve ad be able to purchase and ‘wear’ legs just like Aimee’s? In the realm of elite sports, where athletes such as Oscar Pistorius have an unfair advantage over sprinters using their ‘natural’ legs, why shouldn’t his competitors have the ‘choice’ to replace their biological legs with prostheses that would arguably make them faster and more competitive?67 But, of course, despite Mullins’ casually triumphant use of over a dozen different prosthetic legs (her favourite are her lifelike ‘pretty legs’, which she says are just like ‘Barbie’s’68, of which she has five pairs all built with different heel heights), it must be remembered that the use of prosthetics is far from equivalent to a fashion choice or a simple consumer transaction. What is occulted in the mainstream representations of a ‘real’ figure like Aimee Mullins is the enormous machinery of economic and social privilege inherent in the worlds of fashion, elite sport, and 65  Isabel Karpin & Roxanne Mykitiuk, (2008). Going out on a Limb: Prosthetics, Normalcy and Disputing the Therapy/Enhancement Distinction. Medical Law Review 16, 425. Petra Kuppers, (2000). Addenda? Contemporary Cyborgs and the Mediation of Embodiment. 66  Body, Space and Technology Journal 1 (1). Torbjorn Tannsjo, (2009). Medical Enhancement and the Ethos of Elite Sport. In Julian Savulescu, 67  & Nick Bostrom (Eds.), Human Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Amy Goldswasser, 1998, p. 49. 68 



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advertising from which these representations are generated. Most people who use prostheses therapeutically to restore or replace a missing body part are not elite models or athletes, nor are they in a position to afford the cutting-edge prosthetic technology—and presumably the physiotherapy and training—which would enable radical enhancement rather than just the painstaking restoration of mundane day-to-day functionality. Indeed, the cost of a prosthetic limb alone is staggering, not to mention the costs associated with the attendant medical and physiotherapeutic treatments. As Sobchack notes, writing in 2006: “my research tells me that my full (and rather ordinary) AK leg probably cost no less than $10,000 to $15,000, since a top-of-the-line carbon fiber BK prosthesis used for sports competition […] costs at least $20,000 per leg.”69 And these costs are modest. Sobchack continues: “Should I wish it, I could request that my HMO approve the purchase and fitting of Otto Bock’s latest C-leg [which] costs $40,000 to $50,000.”70 In addition to the financial costs—and the social privilege inherent in being able to afford a HMO or health care provider to cover those expenses—there is a whole landscape of emotional, psychological, and physical costs attendant to the use of prosthetics, which may include: trauma associated with limb-loss; the ongoing stigma of disability; difficulties with motility and performance; maladjustment to prostheses; painful rehabilitation, strain on relationships, and so on.71 Indeed, when we consider Merleau-Ponty’s description of the body schema, what is perhaps glossed over is how painstaking the process of skill acquisition can be. It may take a significant amount of time and effort to master the use a new object, tool, or prosthesis and to rearrange the corporeal schema accordingly. In fact, Merleau-Ponty does not fully develop an account of skill acquisition, nor does he ref lect fully on the process of how the habit body is formed. Hubert Dreyfus’s well-known account of skill acquisition is an attempt to fill this lacuna in Merleau-Ponty’s own work. Dreyfus argues that in certain types of skill acquisition the subject makes a self-conscious effort to acquire a skill that involves using or moving the body in a novel or unfamiliar way, perhaps learning to manipulate a tool or instrument. Focusing on a motor skill, that of learning to drive a car, Dreyfus’s model of skill acquisition tracks the learner through five stages of learning: novice; advanced beginner; competence; proficiency; and expertise.72 Through these various stages, the learner starts by learning the rules of an activity on a cognitive level and then gains expertise through repetition and practice on the bodi69 Vivian Sobchack, 2006, p. 31. 70 Ibid. 71 Craig D. Murray, 2008. 72 Hubert L. Dreyfus, (1999). The Challenge of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Embodiment for Cognitive Science. In Hone Fern Haber, & Gail Weiss (Eds.), Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, (pp. 105-10). New York: Routledge.

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ly level. In the beginning stages, the technique is performed with self-conscious effort and is characterised by faltering and stumbling. Gradually, with repetition and practice, over time the skill becomes embodied and, as such, integrated into the body schema. Sobchack describes her own experience of learning to integrate her prosthetic leg, a painstaking process of skill acquisition that took months: For six months or so, while my flesh was still healing and I was engaged in strenuous preliminary rehabilitation, I got about using crutches … Finally, however, my body was ready to go through the arduous plaster casting, fiberglass molding, and microfitting of a prosthetic leg so that I could begin to learn to walk again—a fairly lengthy and complex process that imbricated both intensive mechanical adjustment and physical practice. There were all sorts of physical things that I had to learn to do consciously in quick sequence or, worse, simultaneously: kick the prosthetic leg forward to ground the heel, tighten my butt, pull my residual limb back into the socket, weight the prosthetic leg to lock the knee, take a step with my ‘own’ leg and unweight the prosthetic leg as I did so, tighten my stomach and pull up tall to kick the prosthetic forward, and begin again … Although it took much longer for me to develop a smoothly cadenced gait, I was functionally walking in a little over a month.73 Being ‘functionally walking’ is a far cry from the posthuman enhancement promised by the prosthetic metaphor and by mainstream figures such as Mullins and Pistorius. These aspirational figures, although admirably enabled by their use of prostheses and pivotal in helping overcome the mainstream stigma associated with disability, also create unrealistic expectations for ‘ordinary’ disabled bodies. The message we get through mainstream representations of Mullins, such as the Freeserve ad discussed above, is that disability is palatable as long as you can do all the things able-bodied people can do, or in fact do them even better. However, most people using prosthetic technologies are not interested in competing in the Olympics, nor should that hyper-level of functionality, made possible by a whole range of social and financial privileges, approximate any sort of mainstream norm or expectation. Sobchack muses: “I remember long ago attending that first meeting of the support group at which my prosthetist proudly showed a video of amputees (without Cheetah legs) racing in the Special Olympics. As I sat there, I watched the people around me—and knew that all they wanted, as I did, was to be able to walk at work, to the store and maybe on a treadmill at the gym.”74

73 Vivian Sobchack, 2006, p. 26. 74 Ibid., p. 38.



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4. Conclusion: Disability as Malleability? When Freud ref lected in 1930 about man’s status as a ‘prosthetic god’ as a result of his relation to technology, he looked to the future and recognized that “unimaginable advances” were still to come to the enhancement of man’s “god-like nature.”75 Indeed, in the present day, god-like figures, enhanced with technology and gifted with superhuman powers, are standard fare in our contemporary cultural imaginary. Malleable bodies, often augmented, modified or enhanced by surgeries, genetics, prosthetics, implants and technologies proliferate in speculative fiction and film, capturing our imagination and pushing the limits of what it means to be human through destabilizing essentializing dichotomies: human/ animal; man/machine; able-bodied/disabled. In this way, body malleability has transfixed our cultural imagination. Tied to neoliberal values such as freedom and self-determination, changing the body to enhance or improve the self has become common sense in our cultural practices. This, on the one hand, has an enormous potential for disrupting and destabilizing the category of disability, especially when considering individuals utilizing sophisticated prosthetic technologies, such as Aimee Mullins. As a mainstream figure who blurs the line between fantasy and ‘real’ life, Mullins feeds the cultural imaginary of the posthuman cyborg body, while at the same time, completely transforming the landscape of mainstream representations of disability. Through her imaginative and skillful use of prostheses, Mullins demonstrates the enabling and empowering potential for body malleability and the prosthetic metaphor in terms of disability politics. However, Mullins’s triumphant representations of body malleability in terms of the prosthetically augmented body, occlude the more mundane realities that people struggling with limb-loss actually face and the complex political landscape behind the development and implementation of prosthetic technologies. As discussed above, there is the painstaking process of phenomenologically incorporating a prosthesis into the body schema, and the concomitant existential, psychological, and emotional factors at play in experiences of limb-loss and prosthetic use. In fact, in order to cast disabled bodies as technologically-enhanced victorious cyborg figures, not only must these personal factors be glossed over, but in addition, so too must a whole range of practical and political issues that are necessarily lurking in the background when considering prosthetic technologies. As Steven Kurzman ponders when considering his own status as a prosthesis user after a motorcycle accident:

75 Sigmund Freud, 1962, p. 36.

Disability as Malleability

[I]f I am to be interpellated as a cyborg, it is because my leg cost $11,000 and my HMO paid for it; because I have to get a job to get health insurance; because I stand and walk with the irony that the materials and design of my leg are based in the same military technology which has blown the limbs off so many other young men; because the shock absorber in my foot was manufactured by a company which makes shock absorbers for bicycles and motorcycles, and can be read as a product of the post-Cold War explosion of increasingly engineered sports equipment and prostheses; and because the man who built my leg struggles to hold onto his small business in a field rapidly becoming vertically integrated and corporatized.76 As a result, although there is much to be gained from the triumphant and positive nature of the prosthetic imaginary—both metaphorically and literally—when considering the potentials arising as a result of the phenomenological malleability of the body, these f lights of fancy must be held in check by the actual power dynamics at play between individual bodies struggling with impairment and disability and their broader body politics within which they are enmeshed. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust [214963/B/18/Z].

References Dolezal, Luna (2015). The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. — (2009). The Remote Body: The Phenomenology of Telepresence and Reembodiment. Human Technology, 5(2), 208-26. — (2017) Representing Posthuman Embodiment: Considering Disability and the Case of Aimee Mullins. Women’s Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal, 46 (1). Dreyfus, Hubert L. (1999). The Challenge of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Embodiment for Cognitive Science. In Honi Fern Haber, & Gail Weiss (Eds.), Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, (pp. 103-20). New York: Routledge. Freeserve. “Catwalk.” Retrieved from SERVE--CATWALK (accessed 28/05/2013). Freud, Sigmund (2004). Civilization and Its Discontents. & David McLintock (Trans.). London: Penguin Books. —(1962). Civilization and Its Discontents. (James Strachey, Trans.). New York: W.W. Norton.

76  Steven L. Kurzman, 2001, p. 382.



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Goldswasser, Amy (1998). Wonder Woman. I.D.: The International Design Magazine, 48. Grosz, Elizabeth (2005). Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power. Durham: Duke University Press. —(1994). Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Haraway, Donna (1985). Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. Socialist Review, 80, 65-108. Heidegger, Martin (1998). Being and Time, (John Macquarie, & Edward Robinson, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell. Ihde, Don (2002). Bodies in Technology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. — (1979). Technics and Praxis. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing Group. —(1990). Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jain, Sarah S. (1999). The Prosthetic Imagination: Enabling and Disabling the Prosthesis Trope. Science, Technology and Human Values, 24 (1), 31-54. Karpin, Isabel, & Roxanne Mykitiuk (2008). Going out on a Limb: Prosthetics, Normalcy and Disputing the Therapy/Enhancement Distinction. Medical Law Review 16, 413-36. Kuppers, Petra (2000). Addenda? Contemporary Cyborgs and the Mediation of Embodiment. Body, Space and Technology Journal, 1 (1). Kurzman, Steven L. (2001). Presence and Prosthesis: A Response to Nelson and Wright. Cultural Anthropology, 16 (3), 374-87. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1945). Phénoménologie De La Perception. Paris: Editions Gallimard. —(2006). Phenomenology of Perception. (Colin Smith, Trans.). London: Routledge. —(1964). Sense and Non-Sense. (Hubert L. Dreyfus, & Patricia Allen Dreyfus, Trans.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. —(1964). An Unpublished Text by Maurice Merleau-Ponty: A Prospectus of His Work. (Arleen B. Dallery, Trans.). In The Primacy of Perception, (pp. 3-11). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Mitchell, David T., & Snyder, Sharon L. (1997). The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Mullins, Aimee. Aimee Mullins: Changing My Legs—and My Mindset. TED, [video file]. Retrieved from (accessed 28/05/2013). — Aimee Mullins: It’s Not Fair Having 12 Pairs of Legs. TED, [video file]. Retrieved from (accessed 28/05/2013).

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Murray, Craig D. (2008). Embodiment and Prosthetics. In Pamela Gallagher, Deirdre Desmond, & Malcolm MacLachlan (Eds.), Psychoprosthetics, London: Springer. —(2004). An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Embodiment of Artificial Limbs. Disability and Rehabilitation, 26 (16), 963-73. Neicu, Maria (2012). Prosthetics Imagery: Negotiating the Identity of Enhanced Bodies. Platform, 6 (2), 42-60. O’Brien, Catherine (2011). Is There Anything She Can’t Do? Meet the Extraordianry Aimee Mullins, the Model, Actress and Olympic Athlete. The Daily Mail, 46(1), 60-75. People Staff (1999, May 10). Aimee Mullins: Athlete/Model. People Magazine, 51 (17), 144. Preester, Helena de, & Manos Tsakiris (2009). Body-Extension Versus Body-Incorporation: Is There a Need for a Body Model?. Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, 8(3), 307-319. Smith, Marquard (2016). The Vulnerable Articulate: James Gillingham, Aimee Mullins and Matthew Barney. In Marquard Smith, & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, (pp. 43-72). London: MIT Press. Smith, Marquard, & Joanne Morra (2006). Introduction. In Marquard Smith, & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, (pp. 1-14). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sobchack, Vivian (2006). A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality. In Marquard Smith, & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future, (pp. 17-41). London: MIT Press. —(2010). Living a ‘Phantom Limb’: On the Phenomeology of Bodily Integrity. Body and Society, 16 (3), 51-67. Tannsjo, Torbjorn (2009). Medical Enhancement and the Ethos of Elite Sport. In Julian Savulescu & Nick Bostrom (Eds.), Human Enhancement, (pp. 315-26). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The Protean Self Denisa Butnaru

Current debates on issues such as enhancement and bio-technologies strongly challenge the borders of the human body and of culturally loaded concepts such as self and identity. Despite their conception and use in the medical field, the development of chip implants, exoskeletons, and of the more known prostheses, started to be correlated to other purposes than curative ones. Contemporary authors, such as Fabrice Jotterand, draw attention explicitly to some consequences of these practices, which refer more globally to alterations of human nature. In his opinion, as technology progresses, not only our biological capacities will be restored or/ and enhanced. It is likely the case that technology will permit the addition of new features to the human experience that are beyond biological characteristics and beyond human embodiment (2008, p. 16). In such a context, one of the questions raised by recent views on the sociology of identity focuses on the status that the individual person undergoing such bodily modifications may still hold. More explicitly, the question concerns up to what point the implementation of such technologies, such as those developed in bionics, allows the pertinence and persistence of the person qua individual to be defended. According to a survey developed by the CREDOC in France in 2014 (Bigot & Hoibian, 2014), the majority of the interviewed persons show their reluctance to implementing microchips for such purposes as communication or localization. However, they are rather in favor of these measures in situations related to health issues such as the prevention of certain diseases. The attitudes oscillate in this case between fear of being controlled and the possibility to benefit from medical support when in need. The implementation of biotechnologies is also not to be separated from new representations of self and self hood, leading to new definitions of such concepts as the person, self, and identity. Being very recent phenomena, they display a specific liminal character: on the one hand, they are used to rehabilitate biological and anatomical functions, on the other hand, they may be used to enhance already existing bodily functions. Therefore, they have an impact on both the definition of


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disability and illness and, on a more general scale, on the processes of expandability of human corporeality. Using life-story interviews of persons with motility disabilities (cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury), among whom some individuals used such robotic rehabilitation technologies as exoskeletons, how these persons define their identity after having experienced, used, or having merely being confronted with such devices will be stressed. The aim of this essay is to show how the use of exoskeletons contributes to the production and definition of a new model of self, a protean self. What is understood by self in the present context does not refer only to a psychic or psychological dimension but to an embodied individual and, especially, to an experiential unity (Zahavi, 2005). Moreover, the choice of the example to be analyzed, namely that of motility disability, grounds deeply the notion of self and self hood into the materiality of the body. Being a device that is perceived, the exoskeleton, similar to crutches or wheelchairs, affects primary perception. Its role in shaping a specific form of imaginary is therefore central. Blending partly science-fictional epistemological resources as well as resources stemming from proper scientific imaginaries, the status of this technological device inf luences the acknowledgment of a new form of self by its concrete association of technological parts to human anatomical functions. Despite the functional vocabulary of rehabilitation often used in relation to the application and use of exoskeletons in cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury, what exoskeletons do is also a reformulation of the body qua holder of identity. In this specific example, the body represents a specific medium where essential transformations happen. What was thought to be irremediable—especially SCI persons who were often told that they would never be able to walk again—becomes, due to the use of exoskeletons, an effective possibility. The intention of this essay is, while relying on the phenomenological paradigm, first to show the impact that such technological devices may produce on the conception of self and self hood. In a further step, drawing on empirical material from life-story interviews, it shall be shown how new forms of identity qua ipseity (Ricoeur, 1990) emerge, and how the gradual acceptance of a techno-body is realized. Finally, some symbolic mechanisms shall be discussed through which bodily models, initially conceived of in a science-fictional context, are referred to in factual narratives and challenge common conceptions of the body. This move between orders of corporeal reality contributes both to a mutation of stocks-ofknowledge-at-hand (Schutz, [1932] 2004) as well as to what I would call stocks-ofpractices-at-hand and contributes to acknowledging models of faction1.

1 The term “faction” shall be further used as defined in the Introduction of the volume.

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1. Self and Body As Shaun Gallagher, a defender of the enactivist paradigm in phenomenology acknowledges, there is a multiplicity of conceptions of the self. Most of them proliferated in various discourses and disciplines at the beginning of the 21st century. Some of these conceptions may refer to the following aspects: ecological, autobiographical, cognitive, contextualized, core self, dialogical self, narrative self, embodied self, fictional, gendered self, minimal self, neural self, and so on (Gallagher, 2012, p. 131). Among this plurality of definitions, pointing to what I call the protean quality of the self, a discussion focusing on exoskeletons highlights a fundamental feature without which the notion of self would have no steadily ground: its embodiment. Each of the aspects mentioned above focuses on a more or less present property legitimizing self hood. However, two characteristics seem to be of stronger purport in phenomenological discourses. They refer to the narrative (Schechtmann, 2011; Ricoeur ,1990) and experiential (Zahavi, 2005; Zahavi, 2009; Zahavi, 2011) dimension of self hood. If some phenomenologists stress more the importance of the experiential quality as being that which justifies the minimal self or the core self (Zahavi, 2005; Gallagher & Zahavi, 2008), some others try to complete or correlate this dimension with a narrative or discursive aspect of self hood (Sobchack, 2006). As shall be argued in the following, the predilection given to an experiential self, and correlatively to a narrative self, cannot be separated from what the philosopher Bernard Waldenfels (1990) and the sociologist Gesa Lindemann name (2009) “leibliches Selbst”—corporeal self. Any modification realized at the level of the lived corporeality (das Leibliche) has deep consequences for the experiential and narrative aspects. This interconnectedness emerges clearly in interviews realized with persons having cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. The experiential and narrative conceptions of the self are well established in the phenomenological tradition. If the basis of the first, namely the experiential, is set already in classical texts of Edmund Husserl (1952) and strongly defended in contemporary debates by such philosophers as Dan Zahavi (2009; 2011), the second is known in phenomenological debates more in relation to the work of Paul Ricoeur (1990). Both conceptions of self are responsible for various manners in which we give meaning to the different experiences that we live. However, to recall Dan Zahavi’s position, despite the multiple facets that a self may have, there is a basic form of self upon which all the others are further elaborated. This form, which he names “minimal” or “core” self, is defined as “the ubiquitous dimension of first-personal givenness in the multitude of changing experience. […] The minimal self is the very subjectivity of experience and not something that exists independently of the experiential f low” (Zahavi, 2009, p. 563). The importance of mentioning the core self in the present essay is capital precisely because this



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draws attention to the fact that the core or minimal self ensures the primary unity for meaning processes. These processes are further elaborated in our agency repertoires, actions, and interactions. What shall be considered in the following is a whole unit which, despite categorical separations, maintains its specificity precisely in the composition and articulation of the interviewees’ corporeal stories. These two phenomenological aspects—experiential and narrative—shall be considered as being complementary in the further definition and exploration of the protean quality of the self. Narratives and experiential selves do not exclude each other but mirror one another. To recall the view of Vivian Sobchack, who pleads for the simultaneous consideration of language and lived bodies, “experience of any kind requires both bodies and language for its expression, and both autobiographical and discursive experiences are real in that they both have material causes and consequences” (2006, p. 18). Thus the narrative self emerges as a result of interpreting one’s experiential episodes, and of making a coherent life story out of one’s ‘own aims, ideals, and aspirations’. […] The stable experiential self unifies the stream of consciousness, and the evolving narrative self creates coherence in light of social and linguistic dimensions (Gusman, 2015, p. 327). Why Sobchack’s position is important for the present argument is not only because she pleads for a reconciliation between the experiential self and the narrative self, but because she defends the active role of the lived body in the unification and concentration of experience. Experience and narrative would produce no coherence per se if they were not preceded by the fact that they have a common background, which is the body. Therefore, any discussion of the minimal and narrative self includes a more primordial aspect: that of their embodiment. The first phenomenological project defending an embodied self was developed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It is he who establishes as a core concept in phenomenology the “own body”, although the first theorization of this concept was done by Edmund Husserl (1928; 1952). What Merleau-Ponty attempts to do in his most known work, Phenomenology of Perception, is to establish the centrality of the own body for the meaning endowment of our experiences. As he claims, my own body is the primordial habit, the one that conditions all others and by which they can be understood. Its near presence and its invariable perspective are not a factual necessity, since factual necessity presupposes them […]. When I say that I always perceive my body, these words must not be understood in a merely statistical sense, and there must be something in the presentation of one’s body that renders its absence, or even its variation, inconceivable (2012 [1945], p. 93).

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The Merleau-Pontyan position is necessary to mention in the present context because it defends a corporeally based experiential unity, in which minimality and narrative meet. A further point which is relevant for the present discussion when problematizing the status of the own body and its importance in the definition of self and self hood is its quality qua lived body. When Merleau-Ponty, following Husserl, defines the “own body” (Leib), he envisages it in opposition to an objective body (Körper). The objective body is, in varying degrees of abstraction, and defined in a variety of perspectives (neurological, physiological, anatomical), a perceived body; […] In contrast, of course, the only way we can make such observations, or any observations, is if we are in fact an experiencing, sensorimotor, living body. […] The body as subject, as experiencer, as agent, rather than the body as object, as thing experienced (Gallagher & Zahavi, 2008, p. 136). This conceptual distinction is still maintained in contemporary phenomenological discourse and is of relevance for further discussion of a protean self. The “living” quality of the body is important both for the justification of the self, as an affective structure, which confirms a form of openness towards otherworldly configuration, and for a first conception of the self in terms of ipseity, that is as “own body”. As Merleau-Ponty notes, if the subject is in a situation, or even if the subject is nothing other than a possibility of situations, this is because he only achieves his ipseity by actually being a body and by entering into the world through this body. […] my existence as subjectivity is identical with my existence as a body and with the existence of the world, and because, ultimately, the subject that I am, understood concretely, is inseparable from this particular body […]” ([1945] 2012, p. 431). From a sociological point of view, such a definition has deep consequences, in that a self qua embodied orients the interrogation of the status of identity towards other epistemological principles. When taking into account as well the narrative aspect, one can argue with Robert Gugutzer that, “the body and the self are not separated entities and any biographical work (Körperarbeit) is identical with the biographical work done on the self (Arbeit am Selbst)” (2008, p. 184, my translation D.B.). What consequences have these theoretical-phenomenological distinctions for a situation in which the “own body” of motility disability is readjusted and reformulated by technological means? The acquisition and implementation of bionic technologies, among which are exoskeletons, challenges a unitary conception of self hood from at least two points of view: the first aspect is that of rehabilitating already existing functions, as is the



Denisa Butnaru

case in SCI, or bringing a congenital condition to a motility model that is considered to correspond to the definition of health standards, as is the case in CP. The second aspect in the use of exoskeletons, refers to the fact that they may enhance already existing motility functions2. Concretely, the association between robotic devices and corporeal parts leads in both cases to a redefinition of the “own body”, correlative to the status and consistency of the self. These corporeal adjustments, either in the form of claiming the norms of a healthy body, or the norms of a body the properties of which surpass biological and anatomical characteristics, advance a new corporeal project. The bodily situated subject is confronted in both cases—rehabilitation and augmentation of motility and of mobility functions—to a form of limit experience (Grenzerfahrung) as Robert Gugutzer (2002) names it. This process leads to a redefinition of the synthetic quality of the “own body” and, in a further step, to the reformulation of identity norms as well as to a new conception of identity qua embodied tout court. The phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty already stressed the possibility of expanding the corporeal functions by the integration of an object in the bodily schematic articulation of the subject. He mentions, for example, the use of the cane by a person who is blind ([1945] 2012, p. 153). However, the example I refer to in the present essay—the exoskeleton—surpasses an integrative approach of the body qua synthetic structure and brings forth another type of meaning potential which affirms the malleability of the “own body”. The body questions the self in this situation because it forces the self to a new modality display. Put in other words, the role of the exoskeleton is crucial because it redefines and reformulates movement, an experiential quality which is indispensable for the structuration of our experiences. As Maxine Sheets-Johnstone argues, “we are not still born” (Sheets-Johnstone, 2009). Yet, contrary to her view, in which the preeminence is given to movement rather than to the “I move” (Sheets-Johnstone, 2015), from a sociological-phenomenological perspective, which inquires into the transformation of the self while considering changes of such corporeal functions as motility, the “I move” represents the starting point. Consequently, the implementation of exoskeletons plays an important role in redistributing habits, practice repertoires, and the engagement with otherness. Moreover, it contributes to reformulating those habits that grant consistency to what one experiences as reality. In this transition operated upon the “own body”, principles of social reality are modified. This refers to a process in which two types of imaginary are confronted: one which states the taken-for-granted reality of everyday life, the other being of techno-scientific provenience. In this transition

2 See for instance the projects developed by Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory, Retrieved from (accessed 11/11/2017).

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between different forms of imaginary, in which movement and moving functions and properties are capital, new identity norms are produced.

2. Identity and the narrated techno-body In the sociology of the body, the body is defined as a medium for the realization of social norms, structures, habits, practices (Crossley, 1996), and, last but not least, for supporting various levels of discourses and narratives (Turner, 1984). This feature becomes more evident when one considers one of the main properties of the body, namely its having a double character as Robert Gugutzer claims (Zweideutigkeit des Leibes) (2012, p. 29) while discussing concepts from Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology in a sociological context. The fact that the body has a double character is a well-known theoretical insight in classical phenomenology. Husserl and Merleau-Ponty argued, for instance, using the example of our tactile skills, that the body is at the same time subject and object. It touches and is being touched (Husserl, 1952; Merleau-Ponty, 1964). These reactions highlight simultaneously the body’s affective and responsive capacities. The reason why this property needs to be mentioned in the present analysis is that it stresses the importance of the body in the creation and maintenance of social relations and interactions. Due to its dual character, the body affirms itself simultaneously as a site of identity and as a principle of intersubjectivity (Schütz [1932] 2004, § 23). The sociology of the body confirms, as well, the interdependence between self and body, a central topic in the phenomenological merleau-pontyan orientation. The focus is thus on a conception of self in terms of being embodied. The aim of this form of sociology is, to quote Anthony Synnott, the study of the self as embodied, and of the various attributes, organs, processes and senses that constitute our being embodied; it is the study of the body as symbolic system and a semiotic process; it is the phenomenology of the body […]. It is about how we are our bodies, how we live our bodies and our senses, and how we use them and die them too (1993, pp. 262-3). How is the body challenged by achievements in bionics and how are the representations of the combination between body and bionic technologies formulated? How does the factual narrative of persons suffering from motility dysfunctions mobilize other forms of imaginary (technological, science-fictional) and what kind of body do they promote? Such questions are challenging first for the sociology of the body as an epistemological program but also for the sociology of identity, to which the former is partly correlated. Technological devices as exoskeletons (and more generally bionic technologies) reformulate the own-ness of the body and, on



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a more general level, our conception of life. In such a context, the body becomes an active field and produces new corporeal forms, affirming itself as a medium of practices (Gugutzer, 2006, p. 20). In this line of thought, what some of the narrative interviews clearly stress is the erasure of the classical anthropo-sociological distinction between two material orders: that of nature and that of culture. In this process, which is supported by the medium body, a new corporeal order emerges as a third order, mixing human biology and human artifice in the form of technology. Actually, what the combination between this type of technology and the human body does is articulate a new level of the classical dichotomy between “having a body”—which is assigned to culture and cultural forms, including also technology—and “being a body”—which refers to our being conditioned by our organic nature, at least until present. Both aspects contribute to the forging of our corporeal being and are interdependent (Gugutzer, 2012, p. 42). With the development of bionic technologies and their reformulation of such basic experiential characteristics as movement, a new corporeal model is promoted and with it, new principles of identity. The persons who were interviewed have motility dysfunctions, namely cerebral palsy (with which they are born) and spinal cord injury (which is acquired due to an accident or disease). The representations of bionic devices and their applications are different first due to the difference of their disability: inborn versus acquired. In the case of CP, the body has an own normality as is clearly affirmed by one of the interviewees, James: “I couldn’t say that I want to be able bodied cause I don’t know what that’s like. I never was that”. Thus what the use of such a device as exoskeletons does, which may help these persons walk in the case where they could not do so before, is to make the body experience something new. If one considers the characterization of identity realized by Paul Ricoeur in terms of idem (what) and of ipse (who) (Ricoeur, 1990), what exoskeletons do is, while changing forms of “what” the body is, they actually change “who” the body is. In the case of SCI, the situation is different, because due to an accident or to the experience of a disease, the body becomes something else and someone else. Hence, the change induced by the application of bionic devices, and more explicitly by exoskeletons has other implications. If in the former case, that of CP, a new corporeal form emerges, what the application of this type of technology aims at in the second case, is the recuperation of a corporeal form, which the subject was. The robotic ensemble readjusts some anatomic functions which existed formerly and thus brings back forms and experiential habits which were thought to be irremediably lost3. 3 See for instance the various interviews on the site of the firma Rewalk, in which many of the interviewees assert precisely this idea of not being able ever to walk again: Retrieved from http:// (accessed 24/08/2018).

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In both cases though, some interviewees clearly accept this type of technology as well as the more general changes related to identity forms and social interactions, produced by such an application. This representational shift that occurs in these factual narratives affirms the emergence of a “techno-body” (Andrieu, 2007). Identity is acknowledged in terms of corporeal hybridization. The blending between technology and embodiment is meant to challenge bodily habits that characterize both personal identity and the socially presented and represented identity. The “techno-body” is a becoming body, in other words, an open project; it is a body, which challenges biology and with it, the limits of the self, as well as at another level, the limits of our existential consistency. Hence, as Andrieu argues, the natural originary and hereditary body does not serve anymore as a reference point or as a principle for action, because technological means of hybridization complete the loss of corporeal functions and structures (motility, cognition, memory, information processing). […] Getting used to its hybridization, the body acquires a new autonomy and gets habituated anew. The aged person, the ill person, the disabled or the amputee find therefore a means to acquire new capacities by means of technical objects (2007, p. 37, transl. from French, D.B.). This process of habituation to technical forms is described by the interviewees in terms of a normalization process. Bionic technologies are not better or worse than other technologies. As for the question regarding their enhancing properties, biotechnologies are accepted as long as they serve the ethical purpose of a “better life”. James, who has CP affirms for instance: I am all for bionics. […] I guess I shouldn’t put words in your mouth, but I’ve got the feeling that you want to say that I often feel … that there is a natural … there is a way that something is. And if we are using technology to make something better, that’s somehow unnatural. I don’t draw that distinction though. (James, lines 649-652) “So yeah, human enhancement, I think is a good thing. So we should be encouraging it.” (James, lines 695-696) Despite its critical reception by some researchers (Jotterand, 2008; Habermas, 2003, Goffette, 2007), the enhancement project is integrated within a history of cultural practices and put on par with other cultural forms and practices which “prolong” the human body. The representation of disability is thus modified by the development and potential use of technology. Devices that are used in order to mark symbolically and practically a pathological aspect of the body are assimilated to a series of objects characterizing the everyday social life. Moreover, if these objects are on the one hand a marker of a lack—in the analyzed case, a motility



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deficiency—they are simultaneously a signifier for a possible body. Thus, in this transformation which contributes to the redefining of the “physical capital”, a shift of imaginaries is realized. Technological possibilities which modify our corporeal skills and habits, and which were not until long ago associated with fictional scenarios have become at present a concrete reality. Such a change has major implications for both the definition of disability and, on a larger scale, for what such notions as self and identity may still signify. One of the consequences of this technological implementation is that the embodied self changes its biological configuration into a form of corporeality defined by a hybrid materiality: objects and gadgets are incorporated into the body schema of the subject. This process of incorporation is already considered in classical phenomenological writings. Merleau-Ponty, for instance, while discussing the example of a blind person, speaks of the possibility of integrating the cane used by the blind to walk, which is gradually integrated into the motor habit that characterizes the experientiality of this person. When the cane becomes a familiar instrument, the world of tactile objects expands, it no longer begins at the skin of the hand, but at the tip of the cane. One is tempted to say that the blind man constructs the cane and its various positions through the sensations produced by the pressure of the cane upon his hand […]. The pressures on the hand and the cane are no longer given, the cane is no longer an object that the blind man would perceive, it has become an instrument with which he perceives. It is an appendage of the body or an extension of the bodily synthesis. (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2012, pp. 153-4] The association between a technological appendage and the experiential core-self shows, as is also the case in the example of motility disability, that technology redefines the status of the “natural subject” (ibid. p. 205). Exoskeletons primarily help persons with CP and SCI walk again, reconfiguring their relation to space and perception. They play therefore a major role in the creation of new experiential habits or in the recovery of former motility habits. The challenge they address to a minimalist conception of self is therefore of import. For if the minimalist phenomenological approach defends a position in which the core self is the guarantee of our experiential coherence (Zahavi, 2005; Zahavi, 2009), by accepting enhancement the narratives of persons with motility disabilities promote another view. The classical case of using a cane is challenged by the fact that bionic technologies do not only reestablish former corporeal functions understood as “normal” from an anatomic and biological perspective, bionic technologies construct new forms of self hood by advancing new forms of corpo-reality.

The Protean Self

Such a conception is also expressed in the narrative of James, who is in favor of such a change and recognizes the redistribution of physical capital operated by technologies that overcome the simple mark of disability. He associates them with socio-cultural constructions that shape our everyday life, defending a form of nature or “naturalness” in technics. Using a walking stick is no different from, you know, using wheelchair. You know, we wear clothes, for example. Why is that not seen as a technology? We don’t need clothes. And so, why wear them? So I feel, you know, it’s all about a line drawing for me. Why is it […] this is unnatural because it’s mechanical, whereas other things aren’t seen as natural? (James, lines 654-658) This description of the transfer between technological development and its applications, stresses the emergence of new habitualization processes, the impact of which is a redistribution of representations and practices. James’ view confirms, as well, another central category for the discussion on the change of identity due to the implementation of biotechnologies: the plasticity and the mediality of our bodies. If the body has always played an important role in its being a material for social forms and habitus repertoires, what the advancement of these new forms of technology show is a creative reinvestment of the body qua matter. Such a perspective has essential consequences especially for the understanding of the body’s guaranteeing the identity and unicity of self hood. The corporeal self, being potentially decomposable and compossible, gives account at another scale of what Jean-Michel Besnier names “the revenge of the real”. This concept refers to “the project of an understanding of the world, which would refute the enterprise of identifying objects by concepts, and which […] would preserve in the end as a sign of richness, the indeterminacy of beings and things” (Besnier, 2010, pp. 51-2, transl. mine D.B.). The techno-body of disability promotes this relation of indeterminacy precisely by its defense of a plastic and medial corporeal form. It advocates a form of corporeal association rather than a form of corporeal identification, where the second subsumes the technological under the biological. “The line drawing” that James mentions previously refers to this capacity of being ready to accept changes in the materiality of one’s own body and self, produced by bionic technologies.

3. From Body Fictions to Body Factions The analyzed examples are of note because more than operating a substantial change in identity and disability representations, they contribute to a reality shift. Human culture and society developed constantly along with the use of enhance-



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ment gadgets. As James points out in his narrative, clothes are also an example which can be included in the “enhancement” repertoire. And yet, what individualizes the present examples refers to the fact that the technical devices used to rehabilitate disability motility, namely exoskeletons, are often known due to science-fiction scenarios. According to Alfred Schutz ([1955] 1962), the paramount reality provides us with primary models and types of knowledge through which we further structure our experiences. This is the reality which is taken for granted and which we usually do not question. It is what in the phenomenological language is also known as the “life-world” (Husserl [1954] 1970, § 34), the common and primary ground where we lead our lives. An important feature that Schutz attributes to this reality is a pragmatic principle: the paramount reality is the world in which we can concretely do things. Hence, the world of working as a whole stands out as paramount over against the many other sub-universes of reality. It is the world of physical things, including my body; it is the realm of my locomotions and bodily operations; it offers resistances which require effort to overcome; it places tasks before me, permits me to carry through my plans, and enables me to succeed or to fail in my attempt to attain my purposes. […] I share this world and its objects with Others […].” (Schutz, [1955] 1962, pp. 226-7) The paramount reality is the background which gives us the possibility to act and interact with one another and provides us with a set of experiences and knowledge models that we can transform and apply in other forms of reality. Actually, the Schutzian perspective is significant for a discussion that focuses on the emergence of new forms of corpo-reality, precisely because the techno-body and the enhancement debates are connected to differentiations of real-ities. In the Schutzian view, the scientific world, the world of dreams, and fiction or fairy-tales are considered to be realms, which are first separated from the paramount reality, and second, separated among one another. He names these realities “finite provinces of meaning upon each of which we may bestow the accent of reality. We speak of provinces of meaning […] and not of the ontological structure of the objects which constitutes reality” (ibid. p. 230). The image of a body associated with an exoskeleton, as well as other projects of enhancement that directly modify the human being by changing the corporeal reality, are often associated with fictional entities. This association appears in the narratives of persons who already had the experience of exoskeletons. According to one of the interviewees, who uses regularly an exoskeleton, his body image while wearing it, is associated by children with that of Robocop (Christian, line 1136). The categorization of the individual who is basically disabled is not realized in categories pertaining to a factual reality, namely that of his dis-abled body, but rather in terms of a fic-

The Protean Self

tional character. This association has specific implications in that, what is actually shown in this particular example is that the process of identification and identity acknowledgment of a person having motility disability and using an exoskeleton does not start from the paramount reality or with the paramount reality. It starts from a “finite province of meaning” which is, in the quoted case, that of fiction, of a fictional character which has become a category used to structure everyday life experiences. This process, by which characters from a fictional work—in the above-mentioned example, a movie—inf luence the formation of “stocks-ofknowledge-at hand” (Schutz, [1953] 1962, p. 9) usually used at the level of the paramount reality, contributes to the production of faction. A further element which supports the reversal of meaning structures operated upon the own body of motility disability is the redistribution of what I name a “stock-of-practices-at-hand”. As was mentioned above, in the Schutzian perspective, the body plays a crucial role in the assignment of reality as paramount. Due to exoskeleton use and its modification of the corporeal representation, both knowledge categories and “motor habits” (Merleau-Ponty, [1945] 2012, p. 153), elements which are responsible for concrete practical possibilities, are redistributed. Consequently, the transition between fact and fiction, between corporeally grounded levels of meaning, lead to a change in the dispositions of which the subject of motility disability disposes. Another element to be considered in the process through which the body faction emerges is the position that some interviewees take with respect to views on enhancement. Such conceptions of the human body are sometimes overtly defended by specialists in bionics (Herr, 2009), who promote publicly a future-oriented perspective. This view recalls once more the science-fiction “finite province of meaning”. If in James’ narrative interview, the reference to enhancement is made in general terms, another interviewee, Steve, who has SCI defends explicitly this new corporeal conception. He does so while discussing explicitly the case of exoskeletons. In his view, there is no difference in the use of such devices when considering categories such as enhancement and rehabilitation, categories often seen as representing contradictory interests and logics. Yet, what his narrative stresses is another aspect, which refers not only to the modification of the human body but also to a more general modification: that of life principles. An innovative aspect that Steve considers in his discussion of the production of a techno-body is an ethical stance. The modification of the embodied self which, on a more general level, is related to the modification of the borders of human life, is accepted as long as this process engages human responsibility. Fiction bodies turning to faction bodies should respect such a principle.



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He affirms this in the following line of thought: I think that they are both great (enhancement and rehabilitation, my note D.B.). Like we said earlier: it’s all about pushing the limits. And in both cases you are pushing the limits for the individual. That’s absolutely great. One case: you’re disabled and you are trying to regain that ability that you’ve lost. That’s great. And then, in the other case, you’re advancing your abilities. That seems awesome too. I think both things are great. I don’t know if there is Iron Man, and people and villains, and whatever. Then, it might be something worrying about. But we got nuclear bombs, ok? And nuclear bombs can just wipe out the entire world. I feel that, if people make super-soldiers or something like that, it all works a way out, you know. Nobody is going to do something too crazy. Otherwise, you’ll have somebody else stopping them. (Steve, lines 516-524) Similarly to Christian’s discourse, the examples that Steve mobilizes to defend the application and development of bionic technologies, include the reference to a fictional character: Iron Man. It is noteworthy to mention in this context that both figures that are referred to in interviews are different in one respect: while in Christian’s narrative the reference to Robocop includes the disability aspect—Robocop is a hybrid human being who misses substantial functions of his body—in the second discourse, Iron Man is a figure which clearly refers to enhancement properties. What both interviewees denote by their reference to such characters is that the relation to augmentation exists factually and is referred to factually. In the context of the disability/enhancement debate, Robocop and Iron Man represent figures which allow a new form of the corporeal ideal type and, simultaneously, of corporeal self to be postulated. This new form of self escapes a given biological model and transgresses into a technologically changed materiality. The fictional characters which are quoted in these examples—Robocop and Iron Man—advance an obvious transformation of the reality of the body and its gradual acceptance. Actually, the moment when the fictional model lapses into the factual is precisely that of its acceptance as belonging to the set of our everyday practice repertoire. For if we accept the creation of nuclear bombs, why would exoskeletons represent a danger to our existence? In contrast to other narratives, stressing rather the novelty and possibilities offered by biotechnologies, as for instance James’, the interest of Steve’s discourse relies on both, in his pro technological development and, especially, in his defense of biotechnologies, when he considers risk levels. The risks to modify corporeal selves, especially for rehabilitation purposes, are therefore minimized when compared to other technological applications which can entirely destroy the environment where we lead our lives, like atomic bombs may. The own body of disability offers itself under these circumstances as a site of corporeal inventions and

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progressive experimentations, rather than as a site of anxieties. It is a site where technology, despite its being considered with caution by some (Habermas, 2003), has a crucial role in transforming factual corporeal possibilities. Such a development is also analyzed by Susan Merrill Squier in one of her works, Liminal Lives. As Squier puts it, science fiction for so long a fertile ground for imaginative transformation of life as we know it, now seems only a grim commentary on life as we must live it; […] Ironically, now that science fiction’s representations are moving from the ephemeral and fantastic to the durable and mimetic, that which was once […] (stigmatized for it by some, valued for it by others) has now attained cultural resonance (2004, p. 212). This process, which uses corporeal norms of being oneself and being with one another has thus major consequences for the understanding of a motility disabled body as providing the background for a protean self. The transition between a body qua body and a body qua techno-body and its acceptance by persons with disabilities draws attention to how practice dispositions, habitus levels (Bourdieu, 1980) as well as sense(s) of our selves are distributed anew.

4. Conclusion Given their heuristic similarity with science-fictional entities (Ricoeur, [1976] 1994), technologies support an epistemological shift of meaning and thus challenge the consistency provided by our embodiment. The concrete examples and the fictional figures used to refer to corporeal transformations confirm clearly this process. Such changes cast a new light on the medial potential that our bodies, and especially bodies thought of as irremediable, entail and on the body’s quality to define itself as a cross-road where classical phenomenological categories such as identity, subject, own body, or body image are deeply challenged. In addition, what the previous examples point to is the production of a new form of corporeal imaginary which, while integrating bodily categories from science-fiction, develops forms of body faction. In this context, one experiences a profound mutation, which affects the texture of corporeality itself. The embodied self becomes an open project, affirming its protean and medial quality. Blending grammars of fiction and fact, such a new type of self contributes to the forging of what Gail Weiss names “the construction of a new morphological imagination, one that offers new sites of projection and identification and new bodily possibilities” (Weiss, 1999, p. 37).



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References Andrieu, Bernard (2007). Contre la désincarnation technique: un corps hybride? Actuel Marx, 41(1), 28-39. Besnier, Jean-Michel (2010). Demain les posthumains. Paris: Fayard. Bigot, Régis, & Hoibian, Sandra (2014). L’homme augmenté: l’opinion oscille entre désir et peur, Note de synthèse. Retrieved from (11/12/2014). Bourdieu, Pierre (1980). Le sens pratique. Paris: Seuil. Crossley, Nick (1996). Intersubjectivity. The Fabric of Social Becoming. London: Sage. Gallagher, Shaun, & Zahavi, Dan (2008). The Phenomenological Mind. New York: Routledge. Gallagher, Shaun (2012). Phenomenology. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave. Goffette, Jérôme (2007). Naissance de l’anthropotechnie. Paris: Vrin. Gugutzer, Robert (2006). Der body turn in der Soziologie: Eine programmatische Einführung. In Robert Gugutzer (Ed.), Body Turn. Perspektiven der Soziologie des Körpers und des Sports (pp.9-56). Bielefeld: transcript. Gugutzer, Robert (2012). Verkörperungen des Sozialen. Bielefeld: transcript. Gusman, Simon (2015). Against Unnecessary Duplication of Selves: A Sartrean Argument Against Zahavi. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 46(4), 323-335. Habermas, Jürgen (2003). The Future of Human Nature. Oxford. Blackwell. Herr, Hugh (2009). Exoskeletons and orthoses: classification, design challenges and future directions. Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, 6(1), 21. Husserl, Edmund (1952). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch. Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. Husserliana IV. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Husserl, Edmund ([1928] 1973). Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge. Husserliana I. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Husserl, Edmund ([1954] 1970). The Crises of European and Transcendental Phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern UP. Jotterand, Fabrice (2008). Beyond Therapy and Enhancement: The Alteration of Human Nature. NanoEthics, 2 (1), 15-23. Lindemann, Gesa (2009). Das Soziale von seinen Grenzen her denken. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wiss. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice ([1945] 2012). Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge. Ricoeur, Paul ([1976] 1994). Imagination in Discourse and in Action. In Gillian Robinson & John Rundell (Eds.), Rethinking Imagination (pp. 118-135). London: Routledge. Ricoeur, Paul (1990). Soi-même comme un autre. Paris: Seuil.

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Schechtman, Marya (2011). The Narrative Self. In Shaun Gallagher (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Self, (pp. 394-415). Oxford: Oxford UP. Schütz, Alfred ([1932] 2004). Der sinnhafte Auf bau der sozialen Welt. Konstanz: UVK. Schutz, Alfred ([1953] 1962). Common Sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action. In Alfred Schutz (Ed.), Collected Papers I (pp. 3-47). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Schutz, Alfred ([1955] 1962). Symbol, Reaility, Society. In Alfred Schutz (Ed.), Collected Papers I (pp. 287-356). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine (2009). Animation: the fundamental, essential, and properly descriptive concept. Continental Philosophy Review, 42, 375-400. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine (2015). Embodiment on trial. A phenomenological Investigation. Continental Philosophy Review, 48, 23-39. Sobchack, Vivian (2006). A leg to stand on: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality. In Marquard Smith & Joanne Morra (Eds.), The Prosthetic Impulse (pp. 17-41). Cambridge: Mass; London England: MIT Press. Squier, Susan (2004). Liminal Lives. Durham & London: Duke UP. Synott, Anthony (1993). The Body Social. London & New York: Routledge. Turner, Bryan (1980). Body and Society. London: Sage. Waldenfels, Bernhard (2000). Das leibliche Selbst. Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des Leibes. Frankfurt am Main. Weiss, Gail (1999). Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality. New York: Routledge. Zahavi, Dan (2009). Is the Self a Social Construct? Inquiry, 52(6), 551-573. Zahavi, Dan (2010). Empathy, Embodiment and Interpersonal Understanding: From Lipps to Schutz. Inquiry, 53, 3, 285-306. Zahavi, Dan (2005). Subjectivity and Self hood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA; London, UK: MIT Press.


Detecting Bodies: The Dystopian Detective Film and Narratives of Reproduction Gero Guttzeit1 “To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein ([1818] 2012), (p. 31) Identifying reasons for the ongoing turn to the body in the humanities and the social sciences, Bryan S. Turner points out that “[s]cientific advances in medicine and genetics, in particular, the new reproductive technologies, stem-cell research, cryonics, and cloning techniques, have given the human body a problematic social and cultural status” (2017, p. 1). These developments in biological and medical science have “major consequences for the circumstances under which people reproduce and, at the same time, genetic surveillance and forensic genetics may transform criminal investigation and the policing of societies” (ibid., p. 15). While Turner presents the latter two aspects—the conditions of reproducing bodies and the conditions of the policing of bodies—as separate, the three films I will analyse in this chapter—Gattaca (1997), Code 46 (2003), and Predestination (2014)—posit that these two aspects are inextricably intertwined, and they do so by visualising how bodies are simultaneously reproduced and policed. All three films present a genetic dystopia, evince certain elements of the detective genre (such as detectives, victims and an investigation), and their cinematography can be well described as ‘neo-noir.’ 2 But the decisive similarity between them lies in the fact that, while—as detective films—they deal with the discovery of missing and dead bodies, they simultaneously focus on the policing of reproductive bodies. As I shall argue in this chapter, the fictional structures of the dystopian detective films discussed here intersect with factual discourses about reproductive bodies, from the 1990s to the present day, that deal with so-called assisted reproductive technologies. From this vantage point, the films are symbolic acts that respond to newly emerging, anxiety-inducing reproductive situations, 1 I wish to thank Ursula Kluwick and Alexander Scherr for their comments on an earlier version of this chapter. 2 For examples of neo-noir films, see Ronald Schwartz, (2005).


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which fundamentally reconfigure the body and its origins. In other words, Gattaca, Code 46, and Predestination can be read as mediating between fictional and factual narratives of reproductive bodies in the age of the gene. Thus, I shall contrast Gattaca with preimplantation genetic diagnosis; Code 46 with the fear of incest as a result of donor insemination; and Predestination with potential outcomes of current stem cell research. All three films combine detective fiction’s investigation of the past of the (dead) body with science fiction’s sketching of the possible future of the (reproductive) body. I will analyse these three films, then, as dystopian detective films that tell narratives of reproduction, both discovering and policing—in one word, detecting—bodies that are dead already as well as those that have not even been born.

1. The medial body and the dystopian detective film In its anatomical sense, the ‘medial body’ designates the “median plane of the body or the midline of an organ” (OED online); the median plane virtually cuts the body in its left and right halves and marks its dead centre. In terms of cultural and media studies, the ‘medial body’ can be understood in the most general fashion to refer to bodies that are mediated, i.e. to the factual and fictional representations of bodies in visual, digital, or other media. What unites these senses is that the body is situated ‘in the middle’, and, as such, it constitutes a site of transition. This transitional character is perhaps nowhere as evident as in the body’s transformation from life to death. The word “body”, after all, means the “physical form of a person, animal, or plant” (while they are still alive) or “a corpse” (OED Online). The body as a corpse is “loaded with cultural authority”, and is “a signifier to be mediated by medical, forensic, and mortuary professionals” (Hart & Timmermans, 2017, p. 241), as well as by authors, directors, and other artists. With the rise of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), however, the body’s transition in the opposite direction—into life, so to speak—has also become problematic in a new way, since the reproduction of the body is scientifically mediated to a degree unheard of some decades ago. Mary Shelley’s prophetic phrase that “[t]o examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death” ([1818] 2012, p. 31) marks a central conundrum for the body in our time. The transitional character of the medial body is particularly apparent in the medium of film. As Jackie Stacey argues in her magisterial study of the cinematic life of the gene, the cinema and genetic engineering share a mimetic intention. Crucially, this mimetic character is linked to living and dead bodies: Insofar as they both seek to imitate life, the cinema and genetic engineering are both technologies of imitation: the first a cultural technique, the second a biologi-

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cal one. […] Each displays a fascination with the boundary between life and death, and with the technical possibility of animating the human body. (Stacey, 2010, p. 7) Following Stacey’s argument, I view Gattaca, Code 46, and Predestination as dealing with medial bodies in a two-fold sense: not only do they represent bodies in the mimetic medium of film, but they also present them as being in the middle and in transition between life, reproduction, and death. In so doing, they form examples of the dystopian detective film because they employ the semantic opposition of living and dead bodies that is central to the genre of detective fiction in which the dead body of the victim virtually always animates the action and, in particular, motivates its foremost living character, the detective. The films use this opposition between living and dead bodies to speculate on the past, present, and future of the reproductive body. Their aptness for illuminating the complex issues surrounding questions of reproduction in the age of the gene stems from the fact that they are what Charles Rzepka (2005, p. 12) calls ‘stories of detection’. These are narratives with a detective plot that not only feature a detective character, contain a mystery element, and focus on the process of discovery but also actively involve the viewer in the detection. The dystopian detective film shows a fundamental ambivalence inherent to narratives of detection. This ambivalence has been noted many times in the discussion of the genre: if critics lay emphasis upon the restoration of order at the end of a detective story, then detection becomes a process that is emblematic of oppressive policing and the genre is viewed as conservative (e.g. Žižek, 1994); if they rather stress the process of discovery, then detection stands for a narrative search for knowledge, and the genre can be viewed as progressive (e.g. Plain, 2001). This ambivalence inherent in the term ‘detection’—as both policing and discovering— relates particularly to the body and ART, since new reproductive technologies establish new ways of discovering and policing sick and deviant bodies. In the dead bodies that feature prominently in Gattaca, Code 46, and Predestination, the dystopian detective film takes up the central element of the corpse at the outset of the detective story. The dead body of the victim motivates the action in the large majority of detective stories: it is “the catalyst for the narrative movement of detective fiction” (Scaggs, 2005, p. 81). The 1841 inauguration of the detective genre, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, already prominently featured the corpses of the Madame and the Mademoiselle L’Espanaye. By the time of the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction, the generic tendency to employ dead bodies was formalised. As Stephen Knight argues, “it is in the period between the rise of Sherlock Holmes and the early 1920s that death becomes the



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central theme of crime fiction” (2004, p. 68).3 The title of Agatha Christie’s 1942 Miss Marple novel called out one of its major clichés: The Body in the Library. Over the past decades, the rise of forensic detective fiction has even increased the focus on the victim’s body: Kathy Reichs’s and Patricia Cornwell’s novels, as well as the TV franchise CSI, are pertinent examples. In these and countless other cases, detective fiction opposes the living and the dead body in the shape of the investigator and the victim. What is more, their bodies become sites of multiplicities of meanings. The victim’s corpse, in particular, is a clue or sign that has to be read by the detective and the recipient alike. Gill Plain argues that in detective fiction, [m]urder literally is ‘written on the body’ and bodies are never neutral. They inevitably bear the inscriptions of their cultural production—socially determined markers of gender, race, sexuality and class that profoundly influence the way in which they are read by witnesses, police, detectives and readers. (Plain 2001, pp. 12–13) The body in the text has to be deciphered by the investigators in a similar way to the body of the whole text that is interpreted by the reader or the spectator. The “living body” of the investigator can also become “a text requiring decipherment” (Scaggs 2005, p. 81), as in Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento. The bodies of the criminal and the suspect are also the object of detection by means of such technologies as fingerprinting, mugshots, lie detectors, and DNA profiling (Thomas, 1999). However, while the investigator, the criminal, and the suspect have bodies, the victim is a body. It is the body in the middle of the character map around which all the other characters circulate. Metaphysically speaking, then, the detective story is obsessed with the end of life. It deals primarily with the semiotic time of the past, attempting to answer the question: what has led to this dead body or, phrased more simply, whodunit? It is at this point that the detective story is temporally opposed to science fiction. Put bluntly, while both genres of popular fiction indicate and inform the present, they differ in that detective fiction investigates the past of the body and science fiction sketches its future. Science fiction’s investment in the future of the human body and its reproduction is visible, for instance, in monstrous maternal bodies in such films as the Alien and The Matrix franchises (Nusser, 2011). The cyborg, in particular, questions the border between natural and artificial bodies: since it reworks “[n]ature and culture”, “the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other” (Haraway, 1991, p. 151).

3 In the few exceptions it is usually a missing body, and only rarely an object of great interest such as a Hammettian Maltese falcon.

Detecting Bodies

In the dystopian detective film, the two generic blueprints of the detective story and science fiction intersect, harking back to a long tradition of generic crossovers between the two popular genres. For instance, Isaac Asimov deliberately wrote his early novel The Caves of Steel (1954) to show that science fiction could accommodate a detective mystery, employing a human-like robot as one of the detectives. Rick Deckard’s assignment to track down rogue replicants in Blade Runner (1982) forms part of a dystopian detective film that focuses on questions of reproduction and what it means to be human: like Philip K. Dick’s original novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), it is, in many ways, a precursor of the films discussed here. Another example is Detective Del Spooner’s murder investigation in I, Robot (2004), a film based on motifs from Asimov, which begins with the discovery of a dead human body and contrasts a humanised embodied male artificial intelligence with an evil disembodied female artificial intelligence. One of the reasons for the various intersections between detective fiction and science fiction, then, is their interest in the boundaries of bodies between living and dead as well as between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’. The dystopian detective films from the age of the gene that I analyse here combine precisely these interests: Gattaca (1997), Code 46 (2003), and Predestination (2014) all deal with the detection—the discovering and policing—of dead and reproductive bodies in a dystopian future. How they do this and how they mediate current factual narratives of reproductive bodies will be the focus of the following sections.

2. Gattaca (1997), preimplantation genetic diagnosis and allegory Gattaca clearly presents itself as a cautionary tale about genetic engineering (Kirby, 2000). Like other institutions of society in the “not-too-distant future” (Niccol [2009 [(1997)], 00:04:15),4 the eponymous space agency Gattaca hires only so-called ‘valids’ or ‘vitros’ who have been born after being selected and engineered in vitro. The children of parents who choose not to or cannot afford to have their embryos genetically screened are so-called “invalids” who are systematically discriminated against and form a “new [genetic] underclass” (00:18:16). Gattaca is a dystopian detective film about the exclusive definition of persons by their genetic makeup. It is frequently adduced as an example in factual debates on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (e.g. Silver, 1997; Bühl, 2009) and it has recently been called “perhaps the most common fictional narrative used in twenty-first-century bioethics classrooms” (Hamner, 2017, p. 31). Yet, as a comparison with factual narratives of reproduction will make clear, Gattaca’s visualisation of reproductive bodies also 4 All citations from Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca (2009 [1997]), Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46 (2003) and the Spierig brothers’ Predestination (2014) are given in the format hours: minutes: seconds.



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corroborates simplified cultural assumptions about preimplantation genetic diagnosis, particularly since it presents the process of detection only as policing and not as discovery. In its place, it offers a narrative of space travel that comes to allegorically stand for the successful unmediated reproduction of the body. The film tells the story of Vincent Anton Freeman (Ethan Hawke), an invalid with a heart condition who desires to become an astronaut, which he accomplishes by passing as the genetically valid Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law). In the world of Gattaca, the authorities constantly use DNA fingerprinting on everyone. For them, Vincent’s genetic impersonation of Jerome—as a so-called “borrowed ladder” or “de-gene-rate”—constitutes a crime in itself so that he is under constant pressure that his true genetic identity might be revealed. Hence, Vincent takes all kinds of deceptive bodily countermeasures: he hides a sachet with Jerome’s blood on his finger for pin-prick tests, keeps a pouch of Jerome’s urine on his leg and sprinkles Jerome’s dry skin over his workplace. Through these and other measures, Vincent ultimately achieves his dream of going to one of the moons of Jupiter, Titan. Jerome, however, views himself as failing to live up to his ideal genetic potential. His paraplegia is initially presented as the result of a car accident, but, as he confesses to Vincent, he actually attempted suicide after winning only the silver medal in the Olympic swimming contest. Once he has helped Vincent achieve his dream, he commits suicide. The homosocial triangle that defines the film (Sedgwick, [1985] 2006, p. 21; Stacey, 2010, p. 118; p. 133) is completed by the main female character Irene, who also works at Gattaca but—like Vincent— has a heart condition and is thus not allowed to travel to the stars. Throughout the film, the implied audience is made to empathise primarily with Vincent through such devices as the subjective camera, which shows us his genetically unmodified myopic vision (00:59:21). As a result of Vincent’s genetic impersonation of Jerome, their identities come to merge. At about a third into the film, Jerome tells Vincent to “[c]all me Eugene, my middle name” (00:28:59). In the end credits, the two characters are billed as Vincent/Jerome (Ethan Hawke) and Jerome/Eugene (Jude Law). The name and identity of Jerome thus emerge as the logical middle term in an inference that completely identifies them with one another: Vincent is Jerome; Jerome is Eugene; therefore, Vincent is Eugene. This process culminates at the point when—in front of Irene—both Vincent/Jerome and Jerome/Eugene refer to one another as “Jerome” (01:21:39): VINCENT/JEROME: JEROME/EUGENE:

How are you, Jerome? Not bad, Jerome.

At a later point, Jerome/Eugene tells Vincent/Jerome that “I only lent you my body. You lent me your dream.” (1:33:07): while Jerome/Eugene thus disparages his own

Detecting Bodies

part in their common identity (“only […] my body”), their shared identity nevertheless depends on its bodily character (“lent you my body”). The newly emerging persona of Jerome thus mediates between the two men, who share a genetically and bodily defined identity. The fact that this shared identity is criminalised and under constant threat from the authorities delineates the genre of the film: since the police state and the Gattaca corporation view everyone as suspicious of genetic impersonation, the film figures Vincent as the main character in an example of what Lee Horsley calls a “transgressor-centered crime fiction” (Horsley, 2010, p. 38). Though Vincent is anything but a criminal for the implied audience of the film, he nevertheless is a transgressor in structural terms, since he needs to constantly deceive the authorities. However, this emphasis on transgression is combined with a more traditional detective narrative: one of the mission directors at Gattaca (who was suspicious of Vincent/Jerome’s success) is found dead (00:09:01), and his corpse catalyses the subsequent action. Police investigators comb the crime scene for DNA evidence of an invalid, assuming that valids would not murder anyone. It turns out, however, that the murder was committed by another one of the mission directors, who is a fatherly figure to Vincent/Jerome and Irene, to secure the mission to Titan. The murdered mission director is an extreme example of the role of the victim in the detective story since we learn nothing about him other than that he opposed the Titan mission and Vincent/Jerome. What is more, his body is so severely violated that “they had to check his name tag” (00:35:32). The victim thus serves to reinforce the fragility of bodily identity as one of the central themes of the film. It is no accident that at the sight of the dead body, Vincent, whom we know only as Jerome Morrow thus far, begins to confess in voice-over narration that he is not really Jerome. The “exploration of Vincent’s deception”—the transgressor-centered crime narrative—“becomes narratively inextricable from the investigation of the murder” (Stacey, 2010, p. 120)—the detective narrative. While combined, the two strands nevertheless remain opposed: Vincent himself never begins to investigate, despite continuing his attempts to elude detection. In the murder investigation, Vincent’s own DNA is found near the dead body of the victim, which puts him in the role of the suspect. Though he is never overtly suspected not to be Jerome, he says that “I’m a murder suspect” (00:51:04; my emphasis). Furthermore, his suspicious body is directly linked to the body of the investigator. It becomes clear only towards the end of the film that the police investigator in charge is Vincent’s younger brother Anton, who was genetically engineered and is estranged from Vincent. The body of the suspect and the body of the investigator are thus genetically related to each other, but they are contrasted through the manipulation of their conception: Vincent as the result of a ‘faith birth,’ Anton as a ‘vitro.’ The film thus juxtaposes the dead victim and the living bodies of the investigator Anton and the suspect Vincent, whose bodies share their



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parents but not their full reproductive origins; rather, they embody the opposition of natural and artificial bodies. Like the narrative arc of Vincent and Jerome, the origin story of Vincent and Anton presents the genetic determinism that lies at the heart of the society of Gattaca. After Vincent’s heart condition is detected at birth, his parents decide to undergo an IVF procedure, which makes their second child Anton a ‘valid.’ However, while Anton has the higher genetic potential, he is twice bested by Vincent in a swimming competition and generally achieves less. As David A. Kirby points out, the film thus “warns of the problems that arise if we believe that humans are nothing more than their genes” and criticizes “societal acceptance of the genetic-determinist ideology” (2000, p. 198). The film has become a commonplace in warnings against the dangers of genetically engineering human bodies, as it reaffirms the power of Vincent’s dream over that of his genes. This view of Gattaca as exclusively progressive becomes problematic, however, when we take seriously the mimetic aspect of the film and compare it to preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which was first performed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a few years before Gattaca’s release. PGD clearly furnished a model for the depiction of reproduction in Gattaca. When we examine how the actions by Vincent’s parents, Marie and Antonio, correspond to the factual stories of parents whose first child has a lethal genetic condition, they are strikingly similar. At Vincent’s birth, Marie and Antonio are told that Vincent has a heart disorder probability of 99% and a life expectancy of 30.2 years (00:10:15). As Everett Hamner notes, “beyond rare cases of early onset, single-gene terminal illnesses, the notion of producing such a hard, exact life expectancy for an individual is absurdly reductionist” (2017, p. 32). Hamner’s remark is crucial though he does not follow it up with regard to what he calls “rare cases”. While these cases are indeed rare among the population overall, they are far more frequent among people who make use of PGD. Vincent’s diagnosis at birth resembles the real-world diagnoses of people with diseases such as Huntington’s or cystic fibrosis: incurable, genetically determined disorders. For such illnesses, the deterministic model is actually correct (unless a new cure is discovered): ‘if one has the gene, the disease is inevitable.’ Factual narratives of PGD are thus structured by what Celia Roberts and Sarah Franklin (2004, p. 288) call the “certainty of fatality”. As they point out in their ethnographic study, patients often come to PGD with complex medical and reproductive histories. In many cases, they have discovered that they carry a genetic condition either through a series of miscarriages, or the birth of a child with a severe or fatal disorder, such as cystic fibrosis or spinal muscular atrophy. […] Only one couple we interviewed, then, had not lost at least one (and in many cases more than one) foetus or child due to genetic problems. (ibid., pp. 287–88)

Detecting Bodies

The older, often dead sibling is central to factual narratives of PGD. In telling their stories, “many patients were keen to distinguish this sense of choice as an expression of parental obligation from the trivial ‘consumer’, or narcissistic, choices implied in mass media descriptions of PGD as the ‘designer baby’ technique” (Roberts & Franklin, 2004, p. 288). As one of the women interviewed by Roberts and Franklin put it: “This isn’t about designer stuff at all! This is serious stuff” (2004, p. 288). The interviewee’s insistence on the seriousness of the reproductive choices contrasts sharply with the stereotype of the ‘designer baby.’ While Gattaca features the outlines of a typical PGD narrative of two siblings, of whom the first has a genetic disorder, the consultation scene rather presents the idea of the ‘designer baby’. A geneticist presents Marie and Antonio with four early-stage embryos produced from their gametes. He has excluded “critical dispositions to any of the major inheritable diseases” and tells them that “[a]ll that remains is to select the most compatible candidate” (00:11:49). While the parents “have specified hazel eyes, dark hair and fair skin”, the geneticist has also taken “the liberty of eradicating any potentially prejudicial conditions: premature baldness, myopia, alcoholism and addictive susceptibility, propensity for violence, obesity etc.” (00:12:13). In the consultation scene, Gattaca thus overextends the scientific model of genetic determinism to virtually all physical and non-physical traits to ultimately demonstrate the inadequacy of genetic determinism. Ironically, then, arguing against a kind of ‘pan-determinism’ establishes a ‘pan-deterministic’ strawman in the first place. By warning of the possible future dangers of PGD technology to reproductive bodies, the film thus elides the present possibility of detecting an incurable lethal condition in a sibling, which is a crucial motivation in real-life narratives of PGD. Despite this elision, the sibling motif is vital for the genetic definition of reproductive bodies in Gattaca. Not only does sibling rivalry define Vincent and Anton’s family connection but Vincent and Jerome’s homosocial relationship is also figured as a symbolic brotherhood. While their relationship begins as a financial agreement, Jerome virtually gives an oath of blood brotherhood to Vincent by supplying him with his blood, an act which Vincent’s biological brother Anton refuses (00:13:07; cf. Kirby, 2000, p. 207). Images of literal and metaphorical siblings such as the embryonic brothers and sisters in the petri dish (00:11:30) and Jerome’s silver medal that shows two competing swimmers (01:37:38–01:37:44) are so prominent that the text seems haunted by the sibling of PGD narratives, particularly since within the visual limits of what is being shown on screen (rather than the imaginary limits of the whole story), Jerome is never shown as able-bodied, quasi-filling the position of the sibling with a disorder. Like the shared identity of Jerome, the sibling motif forms part of the complex genetic network among the characters, which lends itself to an allegorical reading.



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The allegorical stakes that are implied in Gattaca’s plot and cinematography and made explicit in the draft of its screenplay are laid out by Everett Hamner, according to whom Gattaca makes a curious, perhaps unconscious twist on James Watson’s famous remark, ‘We used to think our fate was in our stars. Now we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes.’ Gattaca would have invited us to reverse Watson’s logic, suggesting that since genes do not end up revealing the protagonist’s fate, it really does depend on the stars. We will travel into space in order to learn of ourselves what our genes cannot tell us: who we are, where we came from, and why it all matters. […] The film acknowledges the likelihood of a deterministic obsession with genetic influence, but it seeks to overshadow that danger with an appeal to heroic determination and a pursuit of humanity’s ultimate origins. (Hamner, 2017, pp. 56–57) Reframing Hamner’s observation in terms of Gattaca’s mediation of factual narratives of reproduction leads to a view of the space travel motif as an allegory of reproduction. At one point, Vincent comments that “[t]hey say when you’re weightless, it’s the closest thing to being in the womb” (00:38:15). This is visualised particularly in the final sequence that is full of masculinely and femininely coded imagery. On the one hand, “the image of a rocket launching into space as a symbol of Vincent’s masculine achievement is a playful reiteration of a modern cliché of the gendering of technology” (Stacey, 2010, p. 135). On the other, the circular corridor through which Vincent walks to the spacecraft similarly symbolizes the birth canal (01:35:58). This connects to Stacey’s idea that Vincent is “reborn” (ibid., p. 131), but it also refers back to his actual birth, thus figuring the conquest of space as an allegory of reproductive success. Kirby and Laura A. Gaither are thus right to contend that, “[u]ltimately, the only character in GATTACA who can claim sole authorship of his life, who is literally the only ‘free man’ in the film, is the genetically unmodified Vincent Freeman” (2005, p. 273). The film figures Vincent as an exception and a hero. The draft version of the script makes this subtext of heroic exceptionality explicit: “We came from the stars so they say, now it’s time to go back. If I was conceived today, I would not get beyond eight cells, and yet here I am” (Niccol). If the film is viewed as an allegorical narrative of reproduction, the genetically unmodified Vincent—with a body that is not mediated by reproductive technology—is the only character who is truly living. Gattaca, then, recombines the dead and living bodies of the dystopian detective film to tell an allegory of reproduction. It takes up elements of factual narratives of PGD such as the older sibling, but it also uses the stereotype of the ‘designer baby’. In order to function as part of a cautionary tale, the process of detection is framed in mainly negative terms: it is presented as crucial to the oppressive policing of bodies in an authoritarian, highly discriminatory society rather than as the

Detecting Bodies

discovery of fatal incurable diseases. Nevertheless, Gattaca makes sophisticated use of the detective story’s opposition between living and dead bodies; by turning the investigator and the suspect into brothers, it figures them as genetically related. It also incorporates scientific discovery in its use of the motif of space travel. The boundary between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ affects all of the bodies, opposing Vincent and his parents to Anton, Jerome, and Irene, but the film also shows how this boundary might be transcended in the love relationship between Vincent and Irene and the shared identity of Jerome. The complex body medialised and allegorised by Gattaca is the reproductive body in the age of the gene, viewed as policed but free.

3. Code 46 (2003), donor insemination and the fear of incest As in Gattaca, the logic of division between insiders and outsiders in Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46 is based on class and genetics. In the dystopian near future, people either live inside megacities, such as Seattle or Shanghai, or outside in a post-disaster desert.5 All movement is highly regulated, and, unless one has the right kind of ‘cover’ (‘papeles’) issued by a totalitarian corporation called the Sphinx, then one is not allowed to stay in any city. Filmed in Shanghai, Dubai, India, and London,6 Code 46 stylizes reproductive issues against a backdrop of transnational corporate control over patterns of globalized migration.7 The film’s protagonist, William Geld (Tim Robbins), is a married insurance investigator who is called to Shanghai to investigate the forging of ‘cover’ papers. William’s privileged position as an investigator is based on his manipulation of his own body by using a genetically modified empathy virus that allows him to read his interlocutor’s mind. In Shanghai, William falls in love with the forger, Maria Gonzalez 5 As Brian Baker puts it, linking this logic of division to spatial and character oppositions, “[t]he crucial doubling in Code 46 is not Shanghai/Dubai (Jebel Ali), or even William/Maria, but inside/ outside” (2015, p. 121). 6 Jasser Elsheshtawy (2011) even uses Code 46 to hypothesize on the future of Dubai’s cityscapes. 7 For filming locations and aspects of stylization, cf. Brian M. Goss (2007, p. 64; p. 67): “Code 46 is, indeed, highly stylized as Winterbottom pulls an arsenal of cinematic tricks from his bag: voiceovers, dream sequences, overlit and overexposed shots, discontinuous cutting, point-of-view shots (mainly William’s perspective), and canted compositions roll across the screen.” Globalization is also perceptible in the lingua franca of the film that consists mainly of English but also Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and other languages. Baker (2015) also focuses on the aspect of global mobility. In light of the film’s Easternized setting, Jackie Stacey traces the anxiety connected to the breach of code 46 to colonial fears of miscegenation: “the anxieties about the biological visibility of racialized bodies of colonial modernity mutate into fears of the threat of invisible genetic kinship in the future” (2010, pp. 160–61).



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(Samantha Morton), incriminates someone else for her forging, and they spend the night together. Later, the authorities take Maria to a medical facility because of a “body issue” (00:40:50). William learns that Maria became pregnant but that her pregnancy was terminated, and her memory of William erased because of a violation of penal code 46 which bans incest. William finds out that Maria and his biological mother, whom he does not remember, were both part “of a batch of 24 cloned foetuses” (00:57:48). While William manages to restore Maria’s memory, so they can elope together to the non-regulated city of Jebel Ali, Maria has been programmed with yet another genetically modified virus, which forces her to call the authorities after having intercourse with William. The authorities decide to erase William’s memory and exile Maria to the desert. The film fuses dystopian elements from science fiction with characteristic roles and narrative threads of the detective story to tell a love story with an unhappy ending. This love story echoes factual narratives of the oldest ART, namely donor insemination. The image of the body that emerges from Code 46 stems from the Oedipally inf lected epistemological uncertainties surrounding unwitting incest as a result of anonymous donor insemination. The typical roles of criminal, detective, victim, and suspect are adapted in the film with a view the issues of policing the body. Maria is initially only a suspect and soon found out to be the criminal in the forgery case; yet, this is secondary to her love for (and genetic relationship to) the investigator William. Neither of them has any say in the termination of Maria’s pregnancy by the authorities, as their offspring is deemed to be illegal. Though they are all victimized, there is no clear typical victim in the film. Yet, one of the people given forged papers by Maria, Damian Alekan, dies because he lacks a certain genetic immunity against a virus in Delhi. Though William is exculpated at the end, he and Maria become criminals when, after eloping, they knowingly violate the eponymous code 46. Introduced in inserts at the very beginning of the film, it states that “due to IVF, DI [donor insemination,] embryo splitting and cloning techniques it is necessary to prevent any accidental or deliberate genetically incestuous reproduction” (00:01:03). The code establishes screening, abortion and prevention regulations, and criminalises intentional incest: “iv. if the parents knew they were genetically related prior to conception it is a criminal breach of Code 46” (00:01:49). As many critics point out, the code’s number is that of two full sets of 23 chromosomes, one each from the ovum and the spermatozoon, that fuse during fertilisation. The code itself, the title of the film and the forced abortion thus define the reproductive body as being in danger. William’s position strongly resembles that of the archetypal detective of Greek myth, Oedipus.8 While the geneticist to whom William speaks denies genetic de8 On Oedipus as a detective, cf. e.g. Grossvogel (1979) and Felman (1983).

Detecting Bodies

terminism, saying “[w]e aren’t prisoner of our genes” (00:58:05), she also states that “[a]nything is possible in vitro” (00:57:48). While the Oedipus myth has been noted as central to the film by most commentators, it has not been interpreted in connection to the reproductive issues the film evokes. These include IVF, cloning, and abortion, but particularly relevant is gamete donation, and especially donor insemination (DI). DI is central since its factual experience is often structured by an Oedipal investigation for one’s origins as well as the fear of incest. In the legal structure of DI in Western societies, the male donor was typically anonymous.9 This anonymity, often exacerbated by a phase of parental concealment, which was the norm in the early decades of DI, can lead to children’s anxieties about personal identity and fears of incest with unknown ‘half-siblings’ who share the same donor: two of the major aspects of the myth of Oedipus, its dramatization by Sophocles and its theorization in psychoanalysis. The 1984 Warnock Report in the UK by the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology stated that “[a]nother fear consistently expressed is that AID [artificial insemination by donor] children may unwittingly enter into an incestuous relationship or contract a marriage within the prohibited degrees” (Warnock, 1984, p. 22). The advent of the Internet has led to attempts to resolve some of the difficulties associated with gamete donation. For instance, the website was set up in 2000 to help donor children find their half-siblings. While donors may choose to remain anonymous in most legal systems, the identifier given by the clinic helps half-siblings to find each other and meet. Factual narratives by DI and other gamete donation children are collected by the web repository of the Anonymous Us project. Here, stories are shared anonymously so as to protect the children from potential disadvantages, thus inversing the original anonymity of the donors. While not as central as questions of personal identity, the fear of incest also appears in these particular considerations of gamete donation: “I worried that one day, the descendants of our children may have to ask for a DNA test before dating or marrying” (Anonymous, 2015, p. 31). In the case of gamete donation, the position of DNA testing is thus moving from the genetic imaginary (as Jackie Stacey, 2010, p. 8 calls it) into the genetic and genealogical real that is Oedipally structured. This Oedipal dynamic plays out at several stages of Maria and William’s relationship. Every birthday, Maria dreams of an underground journey at the end of which she will meet a man of great significance for her. Stacey argues that

9 This has begun to change only recently, with the UK changing its legislation in 2004/2005. On the relevant 2002 English High Court case and the history of donor anonymity, cf. Erin Nelson, 2013, pp. 303–5.



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the subway in Code 46 functions as the mise-en-scène of Maria’s […] ‘endless wandering’ in search of her romantic and genetic destiny […;] this dream narrative prefigures the time and place of her finding her soul mate, William, not yet known to be too closely related (2010, p. 166). While the generic aspect of the love story certainly makes the dream emblematic of Maria’s romantic destiny, it also mirrors the real search for one’s genetic origin by children who know that they were born as a result of DI: the search for their unknown biological father.10 In many ways, then, Code 46 uses the elements of the dystopian detective film to show the reproductive body in danger by transforming the fear of unwitting incest: human cloning takes the position of factually existing sperm and egg donation. Through this fictionalisation, Code 46 enacts the anxiety surrounding reproduced bodies that are the result of the donation of gametes. Its Oedipal protagonist William discovers his own origins but is forced to forget them again. Maria’s body is criminalised and victimised, as she is finally banished to the outside wasteland. In her final voice-over passage, she says: “I was exiled because I tried to cheat the Sphinx” (1:23:20). The answer to the Sphinx’s riddle in the Oedipus myth—“What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?” (Sophocles 2009, xxvii)—is, of course, a human being. While Maria’s sentence thus ostensibly refers to her ‘criminal’ acts of forging, it is even more apt as a description of the anxieties surrounding her reproductive body and the fear of incest as a result of gamete donation.

4. Predestination (2014), the creation of gametes from adult cells and genome time Even though it is based on a short story, the plot of Predestination is highly complicated, laying an elaborate puzzle in time. Robert A. Heinlein’s story “All You Zombies –” dates from 1960 and its title is cited in a line of dialogue in the film (01:21:26).11 While technically dealing with alternative history rather than the near future, the film features a futuristic device for time travelling and offers a particular turn of the screw with regard to the so-called grandfather paradox 12 and its varieties such as the bootstrap paradox: if someone travels back in time and somehow kills their own grandfather—or grandmother, for that matter—then 10 In some legislatures, children have to wait to reach a certain legal age to apply for disclosure of their donor’s identity, which ties in with the ‘countdown’ structure of Maria’s recurring dream. 11 On the short story, see Thomas D. Clareson & Joseph L. Sanders 2014, pp. 128–29. 12 On representations of the grandfather paradox in film, see Varndell (2014).

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how would they ever have been born to travel back in time and kill them? Heinlein’s story and Predestination go two steps further than this by making the intersexual main character their own mother and father as well as their own killer. In this fashion, Predestination folds the dead, the reproducing, and the living body all into one. Aptly described by reviewer Jonathan Romney (2015) as “a modern Tiresias myth plaited into a Möbius strip”, the film necessitates a quick summary: the main character, who is at different times named Jane or John, is a foundling given to an orphanage where she is raised as a girl.13 She meets a mysterious man, falls in love with him and becomes pregnant. After she has given birth to a girl whom she also calls Jane, the girl is abducted. Moreover, the doctors tell Jane that she was intersex, and since the female organs have been damaged irreparably by the birth, they have decided to fully reconstruct her male organs. Jane, now John, adjusts to his new sex and gender, and soon meets a so-called temporal agent with whom John travels back in time to the meeting with the mysterious man. Intending to kill the mysterious man, John realizes that he is the one who falls in love with his earlier female self Jane. The following self-impregnation or self-conception or self-fertilization leads to the birth of the intersex baby Jane. This baby is then abducted by the temporal agent and brought back in time to the orphanage where Jane will grow up. So, Jane, John, and their baby are one and the same human being at different stages of their life, their very existence being owed to a ‘bootstrap’ or ‘predestination paradox.’ How do these multiple body positions relate to the form of the detective story?14 The temporal agent, who is the first person we meet in the film, is on a mission to track down a mass murderer known as the fizzle bomber. From his vantage point in the 1980s, the temporal agent looks back on the mass murders of the bomber, including one attack that levels ten blocks and costs more than 11,000 lives. As we learn later, this temporal agent who has helped Jane/John to travel back in time is also named John, and not by accident. He is a future version of the same person who has had a face transplant and thus looks different. After all of this, it might not come as the biggest surprise that his investigation of the bombings ultimately leads to the discovery that the fizzle bomber is also the very same person after he has lost the ability to time travel and attempts to prevent future crimes by killing people who he knows will be involved in them. Once middle-aged John finds out, 13 The bartender and the unmarried mother, as the male and female characters are initially referred to, are played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. Hawke’s presence was interpreted by at least one reviewer as indicative of the film’s similarity to Gattaca: “Hawke continues to make risky and interesting choices, and this one echoes 1997’s ‘Gattaca.’” (Tsai, 2015). 14 The detective element was not lost on reviewers. Manohla Dargis (2015) comments that the film is “a slab of science-fiction speculation draped in old-fashioned detective story crepe”.



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he kills the oldest version of himself in a desperate attempt to prevent himself from becoming the fizzle bomber, which, as we know, is doomed to failure. The body of the investigator thus turns out to also be the body of the criminal as well as of a victim (but not the victim; this position is occupied by the group of victims of the fizzle bomber). While the historical background of Heinlein’s story is clearly furnished by the first mass media accounts of intersex people and what was called sex reassignment surgery in the mid-1950s,15 the 2014 version points towards a different future in terms of reproduction. Compared to the other two films, Predestination does not take up a single reproductive technique but imagines the origin and detection of the reproductive body through the mythical image of Ouroboros, “the snake that eats its own tail for ever and ever” (01:08:07; 01:21:14), an image that is already present in Heinlein’s short story. The film relays the circularity of the narrative of the life and death of Jane/John through Rashomon-like f lashbacks to the same scenes, particularly to one of the fizzle bomber’s attacks and to the meeting between Jane and the mysterious man who is a later version of herself. Certain parts of the dialogue are repeated at several points in the story, eliciting new meanings, for instance: “What if I could put him in front of you—the man that ruined your life […] Would you kill him?” (00:00:24; 00:47:16; 01:25:13). This question, first spoken as voice-over and then as dialogue, comes to blur the roles of criminal and victim. The film also deploys a range of cinematographic devices to portray the body in transition such as mirror shots of the main character (e.g. 00:05:13; 00:40:06) and symmetrical shots featuring Jane/John’s body at its different stages (e.g. 00:59:00; 01:03:14; 1:14:28). These elements come together to reveal all bodies as one and the same at different stages of a life begun and ended through paradox. This dominant element of self-ref lexivity can be linked to the Oedipal elements such as self-recognition and incest that are so prevalent in Code 46 (and Jane at one point even desires to go to space like Vincent in Gattaca), yet there is also a more futuristic and speculative interpretation, if not to say, application of the film, in which the medial body it constructs points to the potential future of ART. The film is a perfect example of what Jay Clayton has described as the characteristics of genome time, whose effect is paradoxical. The present becomes everything, but the past and future are not actually effaced. Instead, all times are inscribed in the present, encoded in the moment. This is the key to genome time—the present is made to contain every possible permutation of time as a suddenly legible system of signs. (Clayton, 2002, p. 33)

15 Meyerowitz, 2002, pp. 51–7.

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Jane’s intersexuality at birth is framed as the result of time travel and her conception results from her earlier female and later male incarnations. The film thus envisions a scenario in which the reproductive body can turn towards itself in a quasi-parthenogenetic way. Recent research on the creation of gametes from stem cells and skin cells in mice by the group around Katsuhiko Hayashi points in a direction in which such a scenario is thinkable without time travel—in which “all times” of the body “are inscribed in the present” (ibid.). As science journalist David Cyranoski (2013) describes it, [s]tarting with the skin cells of mice in vitro, he [Hayashi] created primordial germ cells (PGCs), which can develop into both sperm and eggs. To prove that these laboratory-grown versions were truly similar to naturally occurring PGCs, he used them to create eggs, then used those eggs to create live mice. The way Cyranoski’s article frames this basic research is through the reactions of “couples, most of them middle-aged, who are desperate for one thing: a baby.” The original title of the article, which was later revised, confirms the future interest of the experiments for infertility treatments: “Lab-Made Egg and Sperm Precursors Raise Prospect for Infertility Treatment.” While this basic research is obviously not aimed at self-fertilization, the construction of gametes from skin cells of adults enables a scenario of self-fertilization. The imaginary scenario developed in Predestination could thus gain new relevance for factual narratives of reproduction in the not-too-distant future. Viewed in terms of the current situation, the film dramatizes a fundamental insight into the nature of the body in the age of ART, in which the progress of genetics changes genealogical and biographical narratives. Like the body of the victim in detective fiction, every reproduced body in the age of the gene takes on a semiotic quality, indicating its various narratives of origin. The choice of time travel as a narrative device in Predestination is particularly apt, since it spatializes the temporal narrative in a way that mirrors what happens to the body in the age of the gene: “Since genomics is the science of genealogy, the geneticized body is always a spatialization of temporality: the passage of time across the generations is embodied in the concept of genetic inheritance” (Stacey, 2010, p. 139). Narrating one’s origins attains a new complexity in the age of the gene, and thus also changes the detective’s quest for the origin of the body. In Predestination, we find one of the most extreme examples of a medial body: it is not just the different roles of the detective narrative that are incarnated by the same body but through its transformations, it comes to be identical with a complete nuclear family: its full genealogical narrative is told through one body alone, presenting the body-as-family.



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5. Detecting the Reproductive Body Gattaca, Code 46, and Predestination present bodies in the mimetic medium of the film, adapting and imagining narratives of reproduction. While the future-oriented reading of Predestination must remain speculative at the point of writing this chapter, Code 46 and Gattaca show how the dystopian detective film investigates existing factual configurations of reproductive technologies and the bodies enmeshed in them. That their investigations are not necessarily subversive became clear in the case of Gattaca’s reductive framing of preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The idea of uncovering a truth about a particular situation has long been a defining feature of the narrative of detection, but the dystopian detective film repeatedly shows its limits: in Code 46, for instance, only the victim Maria can hold on to the truth, whereas the investigator William loses his memory and becomes unable to tell their story. Overall, in the dystopian detective film the dangers of policing the body come to define detection more strongly than the possibilities of discovery. While the bodies these films investigate might be construed as liminal, they are better understood as forming the middle of their complex narratives like the medial body in anatomy, which is particularly apparent in the extreme example of the body-as-family in Predestination. Combining two of the genres most closely connected to the rise of the sciences, the films use elements from both science fiction and detective fiction to make sense of new reproductive technologies. All three films couple the typical focus of the detective narrative on the dead body with an interest in the futures of reproductive bodies. The body is suspended between life and death as well as between nature and artifice, which signals anxieties about the status of newly reproduced bodies. These dystopian detective films, then, not only respond to factual narratives of reproduction but they also mediate the biological and cultural complexity of the body in the age of the gene, showing ways to comprehend where the body comes from and where it might turn next.

References Anonymous (2015). My Story for You. In Anonymous Us Project: Best of 2011–2014, 31–32. Retrieved from uploads/BestOfFinal.pdf. Baker, Brian (2015). “Here on the Outside:” Mobility and Bio-politics in Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46. Science Fiction Studies 42 (1), 115-31. doi:10.5621/sciefic tstud.42.1.0115

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Bühl, Achim (2009). Von der Eugenik zur Gattaca-Gesellschaft? In Achim Bühl (Ed.), Auf dem Weg zur biomächtigen Gesellschaft? Chancen und Risiken der Gentechnik (pp. 29-96). Wiesbaden: VS. Clareson, Thomas D., & Sanders, Joseph L. (2014). The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy 42. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Clayton, Jay (2002). Genome Time. In Karen Newman, Jay Clayton, & Marianne Hirsch (Eds.), Time and the Literary (pp. 31-60). Florence: Taylor and Francis. Cyranoski, David (2013). Stem Cells: Egg Engineers. Nature. Retrieved from https:// (accessed 21/08). Dargis, Manohla (2015). When Traveling Through Time, Pack a Change of Identities: ‘Predestination,’ Starring Ethan Hawke. New York Times. Retrieved from (accessed 09/01). Elsheshtawy, Yasser (2011). The Prophecy of ‘Code 46’: ‘Afuera’ in Dubai, or Our Urban Future. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 22 (2), 19-31. Retrieved from Felman, Shoshana (1983). De Sophocle à Japrisot (via Freud), ou Pourquoi le Policier? Littérature 49, 23-42. Goss, Brian M. (2007). Taking Cover from Progress: Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46. Journal of Communication Inquiry 31 (1), 62-78. doi:10.1177/0196859906294721 Grossvogel, David I. (1979). Mystery and Its Fictions: From Oedipus to Agatha Christie. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Hamner, Everett (2017). Editing the Soul: Science and Fiction in the Genome Age. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Haraway, Donna (1991). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science,  Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (pp. 149-82). New York: Routledge. Hart, Lianna, & Timmermans, Stefan (2017). Death Signals Life: A Semiotics of the Corpse. In Bryan S. Turner (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Body Studies. (pp. 23143). London, New York: Routledge. Horsley, Lee (2010). From Sherlock Holmes to the Present. In A Companion to Crime Fiction (pp. 28-42). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Kirby, David A. (2000). The New Eugenics in Cinema: Genetic Determinism and Gene Therapy in Gattaca. Science Fiction Studies 27 (2), 193-215. Kirby, David A., & Gaither, Laura A. (2005). Genetic Coming of Age: Genomics, Enhancement, and Identity in Film. New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 36 (2), 263-82. doi:10.1353/nlh.2005.0033 Knight, Stephen (2004). Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity. Houndmills; Basingstoke; Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.



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Meyerowitz, Joanne J. (2002). How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nelson, Erin (2013). Law, Policy and Reproductive Autonomy: A Framework for Law and Policy. Oxford: Hart Publishing Limited. Niccol, Andrew, dir. (1997/2009). Gattaca. Munich: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. DVD. Niccol, Andrew. Untitled [=Gattaca]: A Screen Play. The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb). Retrieved from Nusser, Tanja (2011). Wie sonst das Zeugen Mode war: Reproduktionstechnologien in Literatur und Film. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach. Oxford English Dictionary Online: New Edition (2000). Oxford University Press. Retrieved from Plain, Gill (2001). Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Roberts, Celia, & Franklin, Sarah (2004). Experiencing new Forms of Genetic Choice: Findings from an ethnographic Study of preimplantation genetic Diagnosis. Human fertility 7 (4), 285–93. doi:10.1080/14647270400016449. Romney, Jonathan (2015). Predestination Review. The  Observer. Retrieved from thers-review-time-twister (accessed 22/02). Rzepka, Charles J. (2005). Detective Fiction. Cambridge: Polity. Scaggs, John (2005). Crime Fiction. The New Critical Idiom. London; New York: Routledge. Schwartz, Ronald (2005). Neo-Noir: The New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky (1985/2006). Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press. Shelley, Mary W. (1818/2012). Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. 2nd ed. Edited by J. P. Hunter. Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Silver, Lee M. (1997). Genetics Goes to Hollywood. Nature Genetics 17, 260-61. Sophocles (2009). The Theban Plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone. (Ruth Fainlight & Robert J. Littman, Trans., Ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Spierig, Michael, and Peter Spierig, dir. (2014/2015). Predestination. Munich: Tiberius Film. DVD. Stacey, Jackie (2010). The Cinematic Life of the Gene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Thomas, Ronald R. (1999). Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Tsai, Martin (2015). Predestination: An Unpredictable Thrill Ride. LA  Times. Retrieved from destination-movie-review-20150109-story.html (accessed 09/01) Turner, Bryan S. (2017). Introduction: The Turn of the Body. In Bryan Turner (Ed.) Routledge Handbook of Body Studies (pp. 1-18). London, New York: Routledge. Turner, Bryan S. (2017). Routledge Handbook of Body Studies. London, New York: Routledge. Varndell, Daniel (2014). Hollywood Remakes, Deleuze and the Grandfather Paradox. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Warnock, Mary (1984). Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Winterbottom, Michael, dir. (2003). Code 46. Munich: Sunfilm Entertainment. DVD. Žižek, Slavoj (1994). Two Ways to Avoid the Real of Desire. In Maud Ellmann (Ed.), Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (pp. 105-27). London: Longman.


III. Corporeal Interfaces

The Cinematic Body A reflection on the status of the sentient body in film theory Stefan Kristensen This essay is about the body in cinema. It is about the body of the spectator, the body of the film and the body of the director (the “author”), and not primarily the representation of bodies in films. The issue concerns film experience: is cinema a shaping of our desires in order to escape reality (a kind of diversion, or manipulation), or is it a means of coming back to the world, a device enhancing our perceptual abilities? Of course, the answer to this question depends very much on which singular film we are talking about, and about the particular attitude of the spectator, the mood in which she watches the movie. But it does have relevance for the filmic medium in general—indeed if we respond positively to the second question and if we take any film to be an intentionality directed towards the world as Vivian Sobchack claims in her Address of the Eye (1992), even a bad commercial film will teach us something about the world and will have a repercussion on our perceptual horizon. As I would like to argue, the question concerns the filmic apparatus (in French: le dispositif cinématographique) as such, and its relation with the perceiving body. We can formulate it as follows: how does the filmic apparatus extend and transform the structure of our moving and sentient body? But to complicate matters a little further, the movements of the camera go significantly beyond the motor possibilities of our bodies; if cinema is considered as a perceptual enhancement, we must account for the manner in which this happens. Should a film be seen as an extension, a continuation of our bodily possibilities, or does it bring about a break, a disconnection between the filmic perception and the motor-perceptual structure of our sentient body? In the perception of a movie, there seems to be what Deleuze calls “the pure vision of a non-human eye, of an eye that would be in things” (Deleuze, 1986, p. 81), and this impression is produced by the technical means of the camera, the visual effects, and of course also the montage. In order to explore the implications of this problem, I propose to start with the commentary on a seminal film by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, Here and Elsewhere (1974), and a discussion of Deleuze’s reading of this film in his Time-Image,


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since it plays a crucial role in the very emergence of Deleuze’s interest in cinema; in contrast to this conception, I will show how we might conceive a continuity between the experiential body and the projected worlds of film, and thereby give an account of the specific being of the sensitive body in relation with the moving image. My proposal is to go through the Deleuzian arguments in order to show that something phenomenological still resists his attempt to detach cinematic perception from the organization of the sensitive body.

1. Here and Elsewhere, or the space of the interval Godard and Miéville’s Here and Elsewhere (1970/1974) is a seminal film because it is the work by which Godard broke with his activist period within the Dziga Vertov Group1. His action within the Group, from 1969 to 1972, left deep traces and difficult questions pertaining among others to the political relevance of film making, the importance of perceiving power relations, and on the revolutionary perspective and the philosophy of history. In 1972, his decision to break with this group was due to many reasons, including political motivations and relational problems with the other members2, but one experience did have a particular importance: his stay among the Palestinian activists in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in the Spring and Summer 1970, and his failure to make the film he was invited to produce by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Godard was indeed invited, together with his closest associate Jean-Pierre Gorin, by the PLO to shoot a film on the Palestinian Revolution, supposed to be entitled “Victory”; but shortly after they came back to Paris, the massacres of “Black September” happened, and thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Jordanian forces under Israeli pressure. In the subsequent period, confronted with the rather depressing aftermath of the 1968 movement, Godard kept the rushes of his Palestinian film in the cupboard, tried a few possibilities of editing it3, but didn’t issue a film until his encounter with Anne-Marie Miéville. It is right to interpret this film, Here and Elsewhere, both as the end of the activist period and the beginning of a new period, ultimately leading to the great project of the Histories of cinema that kept Godard busy all through the 1990s. The whole film is structured as a confrontation of two spaces; it is a questioning of speaking on behalf of another space, of other people, and of revo1 The films from that period have been published in a box set by Gaumont under the title Jean-Luc Godard Politique in 2012. 2 See the chapter on the “Dziga Vertov Adventure” in Antoine De Baecque’s biography of Godard (1980, pp. 443-516), as well as the article of David Faroult in Jean-Luc Godard. Documents (pp. 134-138). 3 The Palestinian writer and diplomat Elias Sanbar, who acted as a translator for Godard and Gorin, recounts his memories in an article published in 1991 in the first issue of the journal Trafic.

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lutionary temporality. One could easily write a whole book commenting on each sequence of this film, but the only aspect I will point at here is the way Godard and Miéville bring the two spaces into relation, how they stage both the irreducible distance between these spaces and, at the same time, their close articulation. In the very first minute, we see the word ET (AND) filmed in three dimensions, with Godard’s and Miéville’s successive voice over stating that “In 1970, this film was called Victory; in 1974, it is called Here and Elsewhere, and Elsewhere, and”. The insistence on the “and” is quite heavy, both auditive and visual. In the first 10 minutes, they then show the five stages of the original project, “Victory”, articulated according to five “new sounds and images from the Near East”: the will of the people, the armed struggle, the political work, the extended war, until victory. This was, as they say in voice over, the project, but once they came back it didn’t go well: “the contradictions explode, including you”; the distance between here (Paris) and elsewhere (Palestine) becomes unbridgeable. After the introduction summarizing the initial project, stressing the linear structure of revolutionary thinking, the rest of the film is dedicated to a ref lection on the reasons why the initial project was doomed to fail. They suggest two reasons: one circumstantial, but crucially important, was the massacres of September 1970 and the necessity of mourning the murdered activists they had met; the other, more fundamental, reason has to do with the very practice and structure of visual representation. Representation is essentially a practice of adding one image to another, they claim, and thus to accumulate a wealth of images, like others accumulate financial capital. There follows then an enumeration of juxtaposed images: “Arab revolution, and, and, and French revolution”, “here and elsewhere”, “victory and defeat”, “foreigner and national”, “rich and poor”, etc.—each time there is a heavy insistence on the word “and”. This enumeration is concluded by a statement in which we hear Godard saying that he, “I, you, we didn’t want to see that all our dreams and hopes were represented and accumulated”. This is the central idea of this film: learning to see that the images are linked together by endless chains added indifferently to one another, and that revolutionary thinking and practice relies on a linear and cumulative conception of history that this film tries to break away from. Rather than focusing on the accumulation of images, Godard and Miéville point to the “and”, to the link between the images. Their question is: what is this in-between, this “and” both separating and connecting the images together? And how can this in-between be made visible?



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2. The interval as a sensory-motor break This movie plays a crucial role in Deleuze’s very interest in cinema: it is at the centre of his very first text on cinema published in 1976 in the Cahiers du cinema about Godard’s television programs, Six times Two4. In this fake interview where he wrote both the questions and the answers, Deleuze emphasizes the importance for Godard of the conjunction “AND”: I think Godard’s force lies in living and thinking and presenting this AND in a very novel way, and in making it work actively. AND is neither one thing nor the other, it’s always in between, between two things; it’s the borderline, there’s always a border, a line of flight or flow, only we don’t see it, because it’s the least perceptible of things. […] Godard’s trying to ‘see borders’, that is, to show the imperceptible. (Deleuze, 1995, p. 45) Deleuze gives here a whole range of possibilities of interpretation of this “AND”: the in-between space, the border, the line of f light (i.e. the horizon), the invisible. It can be understood as the line separating two spaces, or as the link articulating two things; it can be “the least perceptible thing”, or it can be “the imperceptible”. In other words, in his first approach to Godard’s practice of the interval, Deleuze remains quite open. In the Time-Image, a few years later, Deleuze takes the issue up again, and puts it in the perspective of a theory of montage understood as a method to provoke thinking. Putting two heterogeneous images together produces a shock able to put thinking in motion: the very notion of the “time-image” consists in a break in the temporal succession of ordinary experience, and a setting of different temporal relation between images. This is actually Deleuze’s way of applying the idea of the sublime to cinema. One consequence of this conception is the claim that “the image has ceased to be sensory-motor” (Deleuze, 1989, p. 169), as he says in a comment on Antonin Artaud’s writing on cinema 5, that there is a heterogeneity between the form of the filmic image and the form of bodily movement, between the perception a filmic image gives rise to and the perception a human body gives rise to. He explains this essential difference with the “properly cinematographic automatism” (p. 178), and Godard is in his view the most radical proponent of such a method, where the “interstice between images, between two images” (p. 179) becomes the essential question, and no longer the images themselves. “The fissure has become primary, and as such grows larger. It is not a mat-

4 “Three questions on Six Times Two”; English version in Deleuze 1995, pp. 37-45. 5 La coquille et le clergyman, of 1928, and La vieillesse précoce du cinema of 1933 (Artaud 1961, pp. 20-29 ; pp. 77-78 ; pp. 95-99).

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ter of following a chain of images, even across voids, but of getting out of the chain or the association” (p. 180), as he writes in explicit reference to Here and Elsewhere. Without going into many more details about this chapter of the Time-Image, it is safe to claim that Deleuze uses Godard’s works in his anti-phenomenological project of disconnecting the perception brought about by the cinematographic machine and the perception produced by the “natural body”. Indeed, Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema is traversed by the idea that perception, when mediated by the technical apparatus of the film, becomes non-human. Subjectivity, in its human mode, is suspended in favour of a Bergsonian interaction between images, the human subject being one image encountered by the filmic image. This suspension of human subjectivity is radicalized, he claims, in the case of “modern cinema” (aka “Nouvelle vague”). Deleuze brings essentially two arguments into this struggle: first he sketches out a quite narrow interpretation of the phenomenology of film interpretation, quoting from Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception and from another film theorist, Albert Laffay6. He describes the phenomenological conception of perception as “natural perception”, necessitating an “anchoring” in the world and the surrounding of a “perceptual field” (Deleuze, 1986, p. 57). He sets the filmic image in sharp contrast to such a conception, arguing for example that the camera can be set on a mechanical apparatus and thus be detached from the condition of our embodied being-in-the-world, from the conditions of our bodily “poses”; this leads him to see cinema as an “ambiguous ally” (ibid.) to phenomenology since phenomenology doesn’t recognize that the anchoring of cinematic perception is completely different given the technical apparatus. Second, he uses the Bergsonian conception of the body and its role in perception. Speaking about the sensorimotor connection and its disruption in modern cinema, he actually refers to the idea of the body and the brain as transmitters / mediators between the solicitations of the environment and the necessities of action, a conception that Bergson famously develops in Matter and Memory: My present, then, is both sensation and movement; and, since my present forms an undivided whole, then the movement must be linked with the sensation, must prolong it in action. Whence I conclude that my present consists in a joint system of sensations and movements. My present is, in its essence, sensori-motor. (Bergson, 1911, p. 177)

6 L affay, 1964; interestingly, Bazin is absent in these pages of the Time-Movement. Laffay appears in a footnote as an example of a theorist who has fallen into the trap of phenomenological thinking, unaware of the fact that cinema “suppresses both the anchoring of the subject and the horizon of the world” (Deleuze, 1986, p. 57).



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When Deleuze writes in the Time-Image that, “[t]he image has ceased to be sensory-motor” (1989, 179), he refers to this Bergsonian conception of the body, and he actually means that the link between perception and action is broken. This is very explicit in a passage when he recapitulates the idea of the sensory-motor break and adds in brackets “(image-action)”, which obviously is a direct reference to Bergson. What is perceived on the screen does no more lead to a specific type of action; the world has become confused and modern cinema is no longer able to make it clear—it rather highlights the confusion, which is both of a moral and epistemological nature: The sensorimotor break makes man a seer who finds himself struck by something intolerable in the world and confronted by something unthinkable in thought. […] For it is not in the name of a better and truer world that thought captures the intolerable in this world, but on the contrary, it is because this world is intolerable that it can no longer think a world or think itself. (pp. 170-1) Deleuze wants to show that if the essential feature of modern cinema is to produce images which do not result in obvious actions, it is correlated with an experience of the body as fragmented and close to schizophrenia. And modern cinema is indeed characterized by a painful awareness of the rupture, of what Deleuze also refers to as our “universal schizophrenia” (p. 172), among the great filmmakers and their various attempts to restore faith in the world. The main topic in modern cinema is thus not about stories happening in the world but rather our very relation with the world, or as he writes, “[t]he cinema must film, not the world, but belief in this world, our only link” (p.172). The belief, or faith, in the world is the matter of the body since the body is “the germ of life”, the “seed which splits open the paving-stones” (p. 173) as he writes quite poetically in the same pages. But concerning his conception of the body, beyond the Bergsonian framework, there are not many more details. He writes at the beginning of chapter eight, Cinema, Body and Brain, Thought: The categories of life are precisely the attitudes of the body, its postures. […] To think is to learn what a non-thinking body is capable of, its capacity, its postures. It is through the body that cinema forms its alliance with the spirit, with thought. (p. 189) The body in question here is the body shown in the films, the body of the characters in the films and their meaning in terms of thinking about our faith in the world. The issue for Deleuze is to show how body postures and attitudes are used to embody categories of thinking, thereby quitting his discourse on the spectator’s body. The postures of the body gain a categorical, symbolic signification precisely

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because of the break in the link between image and action. The perception of the body and its sensuous life appears in themselves, as emblems of conceptual characters, as key to philosophical problems, in a “space before action”, as he writes in reference to Jean Louis Schefer’s L’homme ordinaire du cinéma and to the films of Philippe Garrel. Those categories are “problems introducing ref lection into the image itself” (p. 186), and for this reason operates in a space where the world is suspended, and “all natural perception contradicted” (p. 201). What is actually suspended according to Deleuze is the body conceived as a connecting link between the environment of the subject and his / her room for action. Again, we have to keep Bergson in mind: But this special image which persists in the midst of the others, and which I call my body, constitutes at every moment, as we have said, a section of the universal becoming. It is then the place of passage of the movements received and thrown back, a hyphen, a connecting link between the things which act upon me and the things upon which I act,—the seat, in a word, of the sensory-motor phenomena. (1911, p. 196) The body here is only the body of the sensory-motor articulation. Strangely, Deleuze seems to presuppose that the disruption of the sensory-motor structure of the body is equivalent to its absence, as if there were no other aspects to its existence other than the articulation of perception and action. As if what pertains to thinking, to relations between persons, to the realm of affectivity, can be detached from the perceptual abilities of the body itself and transported into the realm of a pure vision, or belief, from the constraints of bodily life. This is quite explicit in the following passage: “The problem is not that of a presence of bodies, but that of a belief capable of restoring the world and the body to us on the basis of what signifies their absence” (pp. 201-2). A restoration of the body’s presence, on the basis of the meaning of its absence, implies for Deleuze a negation of our bodily presence in the world. The body itself, with its perceptual and behavioral capacities is not the thinking subject able to retrace this genesis of its own presence. In sum, against the attempt, particularly in Merleau-Ponty, to locate subjectivation and apparition of the shapes of the world in the preconscious life of the sensuous body, Deleuze intends to show that this process entails a negation of the subjective body and overcomes the point of view of an incarnated subject. “The birth of the visible is hidden from view” (p. 201), as he also writes in the same pages. And in order to sustain this claim, he comments on Godard’s Here and Elsewhere, where the space of the interval is explicitly shown, and the sensory-motor body seemingly disrupted and absent. But this contrasts with Godard’s and Miéville’s own affirmations in the film: twice, they underline the necessity of “learning to see” the relations between the images, to see the power relations. First in conclu-



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sion of the first part (as mentioned earlier), and then very heavily in the epilogue, Miéville admonishes Godard for not having been able to see and hear what the Palestinian activists were really saying. In sum, Godard and Miéville point to the role of sensitivity, stressing the film director’s ability to see as well as his / her ability to use the cinematographic device to share his/her perception with the spectators.

3. Merleau-Ponty’s interval and the sensory-motor continuity The common aspect between Deleuze and phenomenological film theory is the ethical concern of what Deleuze calls faith in the world. One crucial disagreement however is about the relation between the body and the cinematographic device: does the restoration of our faith in the world require cinema to underline the sensory-motor break, or does it require a continuity between the life of the sensitive body and the filmic device? Not surprisingly, a phenomenologically informed film theory tends to stress the continuity rather than the break between our experience of our own bodies and our experience of the film. Let me recall the Merleau-Pontian approach to film and its relation to the body. In the following passage from his essay on “Cinema and the New Psychology” (1945), he seems to claim the exact opposite of Deleuze concerning the ability of movies to show continuities rather than disruptions: Phenomenological or existential philosophy is largely an expression of surprise at this inherence of the self in the world and in others, a description of this paradox and permeation, and an attempt to make us see the bond between subject and world, between subject and others, rather than to explain it as the classical philosophies did by resorting to absolute spirit. Well, the movies are peculiarly suited to make manifest the union of mind and body, mind and world, and the expression of one in the other. (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 58) One way of explaining this opposition could be that Deleuze bases his argument on the New Wave cinematographic approach, whereas Merleau-Ponty might have had only classical French cinema in mind. But this doesn’t hold since the latter’s cinematographic references include Jean Vigo and Jean Epstein7, both recognized to be among the precursors of the New Wave; it is nevertheless very tempting to think that Deleuze wrote his chapters on cinema and the body with Merleau-Ponty’s essay in mind. Two aspects should be stressed here: first the idea that film is 7 As we can see in his lecture notes from 1953 on the Sensible World and the World of Expression, the 9th and 10th lessons, as well as an undated working note with the title “Petite note” (Merleau-Ponty 2011, p. 113; pp. 116-7; pp. 191-7).

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peculiarly well suited to make visible the “bond between subject and world”, and that this very visibility, as a simple fact of perception, is a “surprise”, a “paradox” in the light of ordinary experience. Second, the claim that cinema and phenomenological philosophy have in common the aim of describing the intricacy of world and body only from the point of view of perception, and not “resorting to absolute spirit”. If we now strictly apply this sketch of a program to what Deleuze calls “modern cinema”, we would have to give an account of the cinematographic image in terms of the possibilities of bodily perception, and not in terms of “the pure vision of a non-human eye”. In order to do so, we now (at last) turn to the meaning of the word “body”. As I have mentioned, Deleuze relies on the Bergsonian description of the body’s function in the process of perception and action. Merleau-Ponty, on the other hand, would not deny this Bergsonian theory, but his focus is rather on the very structure of the body as a perceiving and acting being. According to Merleau-Ponty, the only way to have an idea about the unconscious, about the birth of meaning in the sensible world, is to take the perspective of embodied subjectivity. His conception of the body, based on the notion of the body schema, allows for a continuity from the “natural” conditions of perception and action to the technically mediated, or enhanced, conditions. The very notion of body schema, coming from early neurology and psychoanalysis,8 point to the fact that our sensitive body, the agent of our relation to the environment (our being-in-the-world) can be modified and transformed by all sorts of technical means. The very fact that triggered the discovery of the body schema (or postural schema, as Head called it) was the observation that the bourgeois women entering in his doctor’s office would automatically lower their heads thus integrating their high hats into their sensory-motor structure. As Head explains in his study of 1911, It is to the existence of these “schemata” that we owe the power of projecting our recognition of posture, movement and locality beyond the limits of our own bodies to the end of some instrument held in the hand. Without them we could not probe with a stick, not use a spoon unless our eyes were fixed upon the plate. Anything which participates in the conscious movement of our bodies is added to the model of ourselves and becomes part of these schemata: a woman’s power of localization may extend to the feather of her hat.9

8 The main characters are the English neurologist Henry Head (1861-1840), the French neurologist and psychiatrist Jean Lhermitte (1877-1959), and the Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Paul Schilder (1886-1940). Their precursory work is widely discussed again, particularly since the publication of Shaun Gallagher’s How the Body Shapes the Mind (Oxford University Press, 2005). 9 Henry Head & Gordon Holmes 1911, p. 188.



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In this quotation, the main elements are already present: the postural schema goes beyond the limits of the organism; these schemata are “projections”, with the help of “some instrument”; the unconscious and conscious aspects are intertwined; they add on one another with time, they sediment, as phenomenologists say, and this sedimentation in time becomes a part of the schema. This last aspect entails that any technical means can be integrated into the sensible structure of the body, into the body-subject. If we generalize this idea, we will soon have to conclude that bodily subjectivity is always already technical to a certain extent, that, in other words, “natural perception” without any technical mediation (rather modification) is a fiction. Merleau-Ponty’s conception of the body is heavily informed by this notion of the body schema. But he not only relies on the interpretations of Henry Head; he also took the arguments of Paul Schilder into account, who coined the term “body schema” and who also did not distinguish in a dualist manner between the implicit unconscious and the explicit conscious dimensions, intertwining body schema (sensor-motor abilities) and body image (conscious representation of one’s own body). I have written elsewhere about the use of this notion by Merleau-Ponty and its role in the development of his concept of f lesh.10 Two aspects are important on this matter in the present context: on the one hand, the continuity of the sensible life of the body and the use of technical means, the possibility of integrating virtually any technical instrument into bodily subjectivity; and on the other hand, the ontological or transcendental role of the body in perception, as the universal ground of the visibility of the world. In the perceptual field, the background is what produces the visibility of the figures appearing to us—but if we ask about the visibility of the field itself, with all its figure-ground relations, we will have to admit that the only instance able to act as the ultimate ground is the sensitive body itself, understood as the living structure linking together the different senses and the capacity of movement. This is why Merleau-Ponty approaches cinema with the means of Gestalt psychology and introduces his essay on cinema with the idea of a disruption of perceptual habits through the inversion of the figure-ground relation: The idea we have of the world would be overturned if we could succeed in seeing the intervals between things (for example, the space between the trees on the boulevard) as objects and, inversely, if we saw the things themselves—the trees— as the ground (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, pp. 48-9). In Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological perspective, perception is always a matter of figure and ground. He also applies this structure to movies, thereby triggering the question of what the ground and what the figure is in the moving image. Ev10 See for example my essay on the body schema published in 2014 (Kristensen 2014a).

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erything is visible, and it seems as if there were no background in the film and that the background actually is the off-screen, the black surrounding of the screen in the movie theatre. But in fact, there is a background in the perceptual space of the movie itself, and this is the interval between the images, what precisely impressed Deleuze to a great degree about Godard. The interval is the element which makes the images themselves visible. My proposal here is to put the two questions together, the question about the interval and the question about the cinematic body, and consider the claim that the space of the interval actually is the space of the body understood in the sense described above. This amounts to claiming that the spectator is structurally involved in the creation of the meaning of a movie: all the empty spaces, transitions and breaks devised by the montage actually rest upon the sensitive capacity of the body to bridge the gaps and thus to perceive meaning. In conclusion to this part, I might say that the difference between the two philosophers has to do with their interpretation of montage. Deleuze understands the differences between two heterogeneous images as a break, and thus as a rupture in the perceptual relation with the world, whereas Merleau-Ponty would understand montage as the practice of écart, i.e. of a deviation in the expectations of the perceiver, thereby triggering an unexpected perception. This deviation is not a break however; it is simply an opening of a different perceptual possibility of the same body, modified, augmented, or enhanced by the film machine.

4. Phenomenology and the cinematographic machine Vivian Sobchack is the theorist who pushed this Merleau-Pontian intuition the farthest in her phenomenological descriptions of film experience by explicating the exact way the human body and the filmic body interact in order to produce an enhancement of our perceptual possibilities. Her point of departure is the claim that the film is not merely the object of our informed perception—rather the film is itself also a subject since it embodies a situation and a perspective on the world. Film viewing thus is an intersubjective encounter between my f lesh and the f lesh of the film. Sobchack shares the essential intuition of Merleau-Ponty on the body schema and the continuity between the body’s “natural” perceptual conditions and the technical means and transformations as can be observed in the following passage from her Address of the Eye where she underlines the issue of “materially embodying perception and expression as a situated, finite, centred and decentring lived-body that, through its commutation of perception and expression, is able to accomplish the signification of vision as significant.” (Sobchack, 1992, p. 167) “Commutation of perception and expression” means about the same as “sensory-motor link” in the Bergsonian-Deleuzian terminology. But unlike Deleuze, Sobchack considers not only the bodies in the films (the characters), but the film as



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a body and its interaction with the spectator’s body. Film experience is described as an intersubjective encounter along the lines of the chiasmic structure outlined in Merleau-Ponty’s late work. As she writes in chapter 1 of the Address of the Eye, “Seeing is an act performed by both the film (which sees a world as visible images) and the viewer (who sees the film’s visible images both as a world and the seeing of a world)” (p. 56). And indeed, if the film gives us a world, it is because it ref lects the fact that the spectator perceives it with her whole body. The movies which interrogate the most clearly this presence of the body are also those who thematize the most clearly the presence of a sensing, questioning, suffering body in its images. As she writes in the more recent book Carnal Thoughts (2004): Focused on the screen, my “postural schema” or intentional comportment takes its shape in mimetic sympathy with (or shrinking recoil from) what I see and hear. If I’m engaged by what I see, my intentionality streams toward the world onscreen, marking itself not merely in my conscious attention, but always also in my bodily tension (p. 76). The film is able to make us see the invisible ground itself making visible the figures in the foreground. As much as the film is ref lexive, it shows the role of the body, not as a receptor of images, but as a link between the images of the film and thus as a ground for the very visibility of the film. In this sense, the film, as deviation from ordinary perception, needs a unified body to be perceived as a deviation. As she also writes, “[i]nstrument-mediated perception is never experienced as exactly identical to direct perception, that is perception experienced introceptively through the lived-body as ‘mine’.” (1992, p. 178) There is necessarily a gap, an écart, between my perceptual possibilities as simple body and the enlargement and modification brought about by the technical device. But there are junctures, as she explains in reference to Don Ihde’s phenomenology of technology: one is the encounter between the visual horizon of the body and the frame of the apparatus; a second is the articulation of the body’s space and the projected visual space of the film. This articulation of the intentionality of the body and the intentionality of the film results in a symbiotic relation human-machine, both having an intentional relation to the world a certain moving point of view on the world. In this way, inasmuch as “the world is the ‘terminus’ of the instrument-mediated perception” (p. 184), the machine is “incorporated into the structure of human intentionality as it is articulated existentially as perception and its expression” (p. 181). And while she recognizes the fact that the technical possibilities of the machine can be so powerful that the distance from simple human perception seems incommensurable, it is nevertheless necessarily on the basis of human embodiment. The following quotation sums this up quite clearly:

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No matter how ‘artificial’ the device, this embodiment relation of human and machine is transparent in that the mechanism is seen through: the world is the ‘terminus’ of the instrument-mediated perception. Thus, the machine is incorporated into the human intentional act of perceiving the world, even as the machine enables a patently ‘impossible’ human perception, that is, one otherwise unrealizable without the machine’s incorporation (p. 184). Sobchack stresses the role of the film as a link between the human perceiving body and the world, as “the visible visual relation between an embodied eye and a sensible world” (p. 203); however, she does not say much about montage. Among the elements making up the cinematographic machine, she writes at length about the camera, the projector, thereby focusing on the process of shooting, but hardly on the techniques of montage. However, this would be necessary in order to account for the way a film makes the invisible visible, the interstice secretly motivating the relations between the images.

5. The invisible and the machine, or cinema as perceptual enhancement Instead of a conclusion, I will end here by claiming that the interval, the “AND” so strongly highlighted by Godard and Miéville, can be referred to as the place of the spectator’s body. This becomes clear when we see and hear the end of Here and Elsewhere where Miéville’s voice calls Godard, the male film maker, to mind with the sentences “[y]ou should have seen” and “[w]e must learn to see”. As we watch a sequence where a small group of fedayin in a palm grove talk about facing Israeli fire, Miéville reads the translation of their conversation: “As they are simple revolutionaries, they talk about simple things. Incredibly simple.” After a long moment of silence among the men, Godard’s voice takes over and stresses the meaning of silence: “It’s true that even to silence, we never listened in silence. We wanted to crow victory right away, and furthermore at their place.” Miéville’s voice then again carries the answer: “If we wanted to make the revolution at their place, it’s perhaps because at that time, we didn’t really want to make it where we are, instead of where we aren’t”. And she then gives the following epilogue: In 1970 this film was called “Victory”. In 1975, it is called “Here and Elsewhere”. Here, a French family watches TV; elsewhere, images from the Palestinian revolution. […] Here, very simple images. Children watch television before doing their homework, and after supper. Elsewhere, very simple images. Fedayin criticize the way they had to cross the river under the Israeli machineguns. How come we have been unable to see and to hear these very simple images, and that we have, like everyone



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else, said something else about them? Something else than what they said, however. We probably don’t know how to see and to hear, or the sound is too loud and covers reality. Learn to see here, in order to hear elsewhere. Learn to hear oneself speak in order to see what the others do. The others, this “elsewhere” of our “here”. The issue at stake is perceiving; seeing that the space of the others is another space, seeing the distance between here and there, seeing that images are made up, that the lived world is another world than the world of revolutionary ideology. But who is supposed to see? Here a close analysis of the film’s voices is in order: it is Godard himself, speaking in the first person, for the first time in his works incarnating his own role as a film maker. His voice is his carnal presence in the film, acting as a guide to the spectator’s gaze. As Miéville’s voice-over says to Godard, “you were supposed to see, but you did not see”, he appears as a spectator, a failed spectator, but since it is the director failing, it says something about perceiving in general. Godard’s perceptual abilities were directed and impeded by his revolutionary ideology, which truly can work as a powerful anaesthetic. What the ideology did was stand in the way of a truly intersubjective encounter with the Palestinian activists, because it made him ignore the distance between him (“our here”) and them (“their here”, “our elsewhere”). It is only by respecting the distance between the spectator and the image, between my world and the world of the film, that an intersubjective encounter, and thus a perception of the other’s world, is possible. And when Miéville explains that, “we didn’t really want to make the revolution where we are”, she clearly stresses the bodily situatedness of perception and action. A few years after Here and Elsewhere, at the end of the 1970s, Godard give a series of lectures in Montreal, subsequently published under the title Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma. In these lectures, he explains his idea about the specificity of cinema as being montage. And his explanation for this is a peculiar combination of a political and a perceptual dimension: the issue, he says, is about “seeing relations”. Montage is “something that films not things, but relations between things”, and this opens up to a political understanding of film since the novelty of cinema involves the possibility of “seeing that the boss cheats the workers” and not simply to say it (Godard, 1980, pp. 175-6). It is essential that Godard stresses the term “seeing” in this crucial passage. He does not talk about “thinking” because his concern is precisely the connection between perception and action, precisely the connection that is broken according to Deleuze. Godard does not consider that thinking is the right way to restore our faith in the world, to restore the linkage of perception and action; he rather uses all the technical means in cinema to enlarge the perceptual possibilities and thus also the possibilities of action. The conclusion would be that cinema is a device for thinking inasmuch as thinking is a mode of perception, a perception of the (invisible) ground between things. Thinking does not imply a separation from the body, but it consists rather

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in an extension of perception through the introduction of all sorts of different deviations from the existing perceptual habits. It implies therefore a subjectivity embodied and situated in the world, and it also implies a conception of the body schema open to deviations. This means that the very idea of a “natural perception” is senseless, perception being always already technically mediated.

References Artaud, Antonin (1961). Œuvres complètes, tome III. Paris: Gallimard. De Baecque, Antoine (2010). Godard. Biographie. Paris: Grasset. Bergson, Henri ([1896]1911). Matter and Memory. London: George Allen & Unwin. Brenez, Nicole, Faroult, David, & Witt, Michael (2006). Jean-Luc Godard. Documents. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou. Deleuze, Gilles (1986). Cinema 1. The Movement-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (1989). Cinema 2. The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (1995). Negotiations (1992). New York: Columbia University Press. Godard, Jean-Luc (1980). Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma. Paris: Editions Albatros. Head, Henry, & Holmes, Gordon (1911). Sensory Disturbances from Cerebral Lesions. Brain, 34 (2-3), 102-254. Ihde, Don (1979). Experimental Phenomenology: An Introduction. New York: Paragon Books. Kristensen, Stefan (2014a). Schéma corporel et espace affectif. Merleau-Ponty et la chair des significations. In: Samuel Le Quitte & Gabriel Mahéo (Eds.), Langage et affectivité (pp.121-143). Paris: Le Cercle herméneutique. (2014b). Jean-Luc Godard Philosophe. Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme. Laffay, Albert (1964). Logique du cinéma. Création et spectacle. Paris: Masson et cie. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1964). Sense and Non-Sense. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (2011). Le monde sensible et le monde de l’expression. Cours au Collège de France. 1953. Geneva: Metis Presses. Sanbar, Elias (1991). Vingt et un ans après. Trafic, 1, 109-119. Shaviro, Steven (1993). The Cinematic Body. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press. Sobchack, Vivian (1992). The Address of the Eye. A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (2004) Carnal Thoughts. Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Embodying the Reader: Perspectives on Fiction, Cognition, and the Body Marco Caracciolo

1. Introduction “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances”. (London, 1998) (p. 342) To read narrative, and especially fictional narrative, we must be unlike the unnamed protagonist of Jack London’s ([1908] 1998) famous short story “To Build a Fire.” We must remain “quick and alert” to things that are not given in the here and now but evoked in f leeting acts of the imagination. We must be able to entertain “significances”—of words, to begin with, and of events, characters, and plots as well. While London’s protagonist would not make a good reader, he—and the story in which he is the only human character—make an intriguing case study for a chapter on how the body affects the reading of fictional narrative in prose. Surely, the imaginative acts through which we translate texts into vivid mental experiences are intangible. If we observe a reader reading a novel, we won’t see much going on in bodily terms: the repetitive gesture of turning the pages, shifts in posture and perhaps a few occasional changes in location are all the bodily movements we will see—and they seem hardly relevant to the novel’s subject-matter. Yet there is more to reading than meets the eye—even with regard to embodiment. The human body, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote in his seminal Phenomenology of Perception, is far more than what can be externally observed; it is a “center of potential action” (2002, p. 121). Perhaps reading narrative involves a number of potential actions—that is, actions that are not actualized and remain invisible from the outside. As scholars working in the field of cognitive literary studies are beginning to realize (see Caracciolo & Kukkonen, 2014), our responses to fiction are deeply shaped by our embodied make-up. In fiction, the reader has no perceptual access to actual bodies (as would be the case in film or drama) and draws exclusively on the resources of his or her own body to make sense of the text.


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In the mind sciences, evidence for the embodiment of reading has been growing steadily over the last two decades, as part of a broader interest in embodied cognition: namely, the ways in which our cognitive processes are informed by our being biological creatures with a body of a certain size and shape (see Gibbs, 2005; Gallagher, 2005). We know, in other words, that literary reading involves a set of psychological schemata and past somatic experiences that we bring along as we cross the boundary between everyday reality and the imaginary domains of fiction. At the same time, prose narrative can also shape people’s understanding and interpretation of the body, contributing to what this collection discusses under the heading of the “medial body.” This is what I aim to show in the final part of this chapter, where I turn to how—via literary interpretation—characters’ bodies can be reabsorbed into everyday experience; but before that, I must say more on how fiction can trigger embodied schemata at a more basic, cognitive level. In fact, one of the goals of this chapter is to explore the interaction between cognitive and cultural perspectives on the body. I do so by drawing a heuristic distinction between four levels of analysis, or four levels at which the body matters in literary reading: language, story, discourse, and interpretation. These concepts have a long history in literary studies, but let me define them succinctly (and, no doubt, simplistically) here for the reader’s benefit. By language, I mean the stylistic texture of literary narrative—the choices made by the author in terms of words, register, syntax, and so on. According to a basic distinction in narratology (Chatman, 1978), story is the “content” of narrative and can be expressed through wh-words: what happens to whom, where, and why. Discourse is the “how” of the story—that is, as theorized by Meir Sternberg (2001; more on this below), the way in which the author decides to present it, often by withholding information from the reader in order to create effects such as the suspense, curiosity, and surprise. Finally, interpretation is how readers make sense of a particular story by connecting it with their own interests and with questions circulating in their culture. I will show that all these levels of narrative are impacted by the fact that we are biological, embodied beings and not, for example, AI programs running on silicon circuits. London’s (1998) “To Build a Fire” will be my case study. Even though, as we will see, this short story places specific emphasis on the body—and is therefore well-suited to a body-oriented approach—many of the cognitive and experiential processes I will outline are so basic to narrative understanding that they are at work in engaging with any narrative text. “To Build a Fire” thus serves as a guide in my discussion, but the responses and levels of engagement I examine in what follows can be extrapolated to the medial environment created by prose fiction, or even by verbal narrative more generally. The continuity between fictional and nonfictional narrative practices, in terms of their embodied underpinnings, helps explain “faction” qua the convergence between fictional and nonfictional storytelling (as posited in the introduction of this volume).

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2. Language “To Build a Fire” is the story of a man who ventures out in the frozen landscape of the Yukon Territories, accompanied only by a husky. The man’s stated purpose is to “take a look at the possibilities of getting out logs in the spring from the islands in the Yukon” (London, 1998, p. 342). With a temperature of -75 F (-59 C), this environment is so inhospitable that it poses a constant threat to the man’s survival. Hence, the story reads like a record of an increasingly deadly struggle between the character and his surroundings. Eventually, the man dies from hypothermia after failing repeatedly to kindle a fire. The animal plays an important role in the man’s confrontation with nature: the narrator subtly calls attention to the foolishness of the man’s decision to set out without a human companion; the husky is a creature whose body has been shaped by evolution to survive in this harsh climate. Both the narrator’s implicit critique of the man and the husky’s endurance underscore what the man, because of his lack of imagination, does not realize: namely, the frailty of the human species and of human bodies in particular. In fact, we read that the man’s f lawed understanding of his situation “did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe” (ibid.). The story translates this insight into a concrete situation, focusing on the character’s body and how it attempts—and, ultimately, fails—to cope with an extremely dangerous environment. The reader is no mere spectator of this struggle, however, since London’s prose involves her in the protagonist’s predicament through a large number of embodied cues. By “embodied cues” I mean any textual device capable of eliciting a bodily response in readers, whether this response is unconscious (i.e., not felt subjectively but detectable in psychological studies) or fully conscious. (I will return to this distinction between unconscious and conscious responses in a moment.) Consider, for example, the following passage. Halfway through his hike, the man decides to stop to eat: He unbuttoned his jacket and shirt and drew forth his lunch. The action consumed no more than a quarter of a minute, yet in that brief moment the numbness laid hold of the exposed fingers. He did not put the mitten on, but, instead, struck the fingers a dozen sharp smashes against his leg. (ibid., p. 346) This passage relates a number of bodily actions: unbuttoning the jacket, taking out the food, striking the fingers against the leg to stimulate the blood circulation. None of these gestures is described in detail; yet, according to psycholinguistic



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and neuroscientific evidence, even these sketchy verbs will trigger an embodied response in readers—via a phenomenon known as “embodied simulation.” For instance, Glenberg and Kaschak (2002) asked participants to read sentences that contained verbs implying movement either away from or towards the body (e.g., respectively, “Put your finger under the faucet” and “Put your finger under your nose”). The participants were instructed to judge whether the sentences made sense or not; in order to answer, they had to make a movement that was either similar to the verbally represented movement or opposite to it. Glenberg and Kaschak found that response times were higher—i.e., participants were less responsive—when the action they were asked to perform was inconsistent with the action they had just read about (e.g., they read a sentence representing a movement away from the body and were expected to respond by moving their hand towards their own body). This can be interpreted as an interference effect: “when the implied direction of the sentence contrasts with the actual response direction, there is interference” (2002, p. 561). What exactly is causing this interference? Glenberg and Kaschak’s theory is that “language understanding taps into an action-based system” (ibid.). The cognitive process activated by reading these sentences shares some of the neural underpinnings of the relevant actions (in this case, movement away from or movement towards the body). Hence, after a movement away from the body had been mentally triggered by the verbal stimulus (even if it hadn’t been actually carried out), participants took a longer time to make the opposite movement because they had to switch from the “away” to the “towards” system. This finding ties in with neuroimaging evidence showing that when we read action verbs implying (for instance) hand motion the brain areas associated with actual hand motion light up (Hauk, Johnsrude, & Pulvermüller, 2004). To explain these results, mind scientists posit that language understanding involves a form of embodied simulation—a mental enactment of the bodily action that we would perform if this were a real-world situation, not just a linguistic representation. Here is, again, Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body as a “center of potential action” (2002). Arguably, all the actions performed by the character in London’s short story— unbuttoning, drawing forth, striking—will be understood, via embodied simulation, as potentialities of our own body. London’s text focuses on concrete actions such as moving through space, interacting with human-scale objects (when the character attempts to build a fire), and so on. This phenomenon is, of course, not limited to this passage: in fact, embodied simulations are implicated in any kind of language processing, in fiction but also in everyday, factual communication. In London’s story, as in other narratives, such simulations are unlikely to emerge in readers’ consciousness: like a musical accompaniment, they set an embodied tone while remaining far from the center of our attention. To understand why this story is so rich in bodily effects, we need to turn to other dimensions of embodiment.

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3. Story Under the heading of “story,” I focus on the characters of a narrative, the spaces they inhabit, and the actions they perform. Narrative needs a cast of characters, who are typically humans or animate beings (such as London’s husky). In most scenarios, readers will take these characters to possess bodies analogous to the bodies we encounter in everyday life. While seemingly trivial, this fact is not without consequences in a medium like prose narrative, where everything about characters—including their bodies—has to be imagined by readers: in film or theater, for example, we can directly perceive the actors’ bodies on the screen or on stage; in prose, where there is no such perceptual directness, we have to embody the characters ourselves—that is, we have to provide them with a body through constant imaginative acts. Not all these acts are the same, however, depending largely on the kind of textual information we receive. For instance, in an episode of London’s story the dog steps on a pool covered only by a thin layer of ice, which cracks under the animal’s weight: It had wet its fore-feet and legs, and almost immediately the water that clung to it turned to ice. It made quick efforts to lick the ice off its legs, then dropped down in the snow and began to bite out the ice that had formed between the toes. (1998, p. 346) Not only does understanding these lines trigger embodied simulations of actions, such as licking, dropping down, and biting, but it encourages us to form a sketchy mental image of the dog’s body. Note, however, that there is nothing in this passage that requires taking the dog’s perspective on its own body: these gestures could be easily observed by a bystander, and in fact, we’re led to think that the protagonist of London’s story did watch the dog’s movements in this way. Contrast the description of the dog with the following passage, which occurs after the man has himself fallen into the frozen water and decides to build a fire to dry his clothes. The man knows that, at this outside temperature, wet clothes can be deadly: [It] was surprising, the rapidity with which his cheeks and nose were freezing. And he had not thought his fingers could go lifeless in so short a time. Lifeless they were, for he could scarcely make them move together to grip a twig, and they seemed remote from his body and from him. When he touched a twig, he had to look and see whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between him and his finger-ends. (ibid., pp. 349–350)



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This can be no external description of the man’s body. For one thing, the “surprise” mentioned at the beginning of the passage is the man’s own surprise at seeing the cold spread through his face and hands so quickly. The numbness and remoteness described by the third sentence are, again, not sensations that an observer could easily infer on the basis of perceptual cues. The fourth sentence (“When he touched a twig”) makes this perfectly clear: the fact that the man does not know without looking whether he has the twig or not signals a breakdown in his sense of touch which, in turn, implies that as readers we’re experiencing this scene from the man’s perspective, not from a bystander’s. In narrative theory, this phenomenon is known as “internal focalization” (see Jahn, 1996): the text focuses on experiences and sensations that are by definition private, or that are apprehended at such a level of detail that they seem to emanate directly from the character’s consciousness. We thus become privy to the character’s experience of his own body, in ways that are fundamentally unlike the account of the dog’s attempts to remove the ice from his paws. Why is this point relevant to our discussion of the reader’s embodiment? Because, as the story explores a character’s bodily sensations in internal focalization, readers may develop a sense of “taking on” his or her body: in reading texts such as London’s, they may not just imagine the protagonist’s body into existence, but they may imagine what it would be like for them to be in his shoes. This effect can be conceptualized as a form of bodily perspective-taking or empathy that creatively reutilizes readers’ past experiences (for instance, of extreme cold or numb limbs). Philosophers such as Berys Gaut (1999) and Amy Coplan (2004) have studied this kind of empathy for characters, though they do not focus specifically on its bodily underpinnings. Building on Gaut’s and Coplan’s work, I define empathy as a form of mental simulation whereby we imagine what it would be like to be in a certain situation or mental state. Yet, unlike what I’ve called “embodied simulation” in the previous section, empathy is a conscious form of simulation insofar as it emerges in readers’ consciousness. To fully understand this point, we need to factor in the central role of mental imagery in reading literary narrative, vis-à-vis narrative media such as film, in which audience members have direct perceptual access to characters’ bodies (and the storyworld more generally). A mental image is a conscious experience that is perception-like in character, despite the absence of the appropriate perceptual stimulus (see Thompson 2007). For instance, we can visualize a husky even if there is no husky in our visual field. While mental imagery is mostly associated with visual perception (as in the husky example), we can experience imagery in all other sensory modalities as well: we can imagine a sound or a smell or, closer to our focus here, we can imagine bodily sensations such as coldness, numbness, or pain. This is a relatively common experience: when a friend shows us a swollen finger after he accidentally crushed it with a hammer, we may well experience an

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imaginary twitch of pain. Language can have a similar effect, and literary language is known for its power to evoke vivid imagery, as shown by Elaine Scarry (2001) and Ellen Esrock (2004), among others. Sometimes this imagery may be triggered by the linguistic representation of bodily states, such as pain or proprioception (awareness of one’s own position in space) or other feelings located in the body. The embodiment of this kind of imagery is straightforward. But even scenes relying mainly on vision are not disembodied, insofar as the bodily movements that accompany visual perception will normally be implicated—through mental imagery—in these passages (Caracciolo, 2013). When the imagery formed by the reader is an approximation of a character’s bodily experience, as portrayed by the text, we have what I am calling bodily empathy for the character. London’s short story takes full advantage of this tendency towards bodily empathy for characters. In the narrative’s climactic scene, the fire the man has built to dry his clothes burns itself out, and the man realizes that he has very little time to make another fire before the extreme cold kills him. At this point, however, he has lost any sensitivity in (and control of) his hands, so that striking a match proves exceedingly difficult: Next he brought out his bunch of sulphur matches. But the tremendous cold had already driven the life out of his fingers. In his effort to separate one match from the others, the whole bunch fell in the snow. He tried to pick it out of the snow, but failed. The dead fingers could neither touch nor clutch [...] He watched, using the sense of vision in place of that of touch, and when he saw his fingers on each side the bunch, he closed them—that is, he willed to close them, for the wires were down, and the fingers did not obey. He pulled the mitten on the right hand, and beat it fiercely against his knee. Then, with both mittened hands, he scooped the bunch of matches, along with much snow, into his lap. Yet he was no better off. (1998, p. 352) The protagonist’s ordinary embodiment breaks down—a fact symbolized by the metaphor “the wires were down,” in the sense that motor control is lost as if any communication between the brain and the hand had been cut off. As readers, we are likely to feel sympathy for the protagonist’s predicament: his survival depends on a single, and usually unproblematic, gesture (striking a match); we experience something akin to the protagonist’s dismay as he finds his fingers unresponsive. But this emotional response is likely to be accompanied by bodily empathy: London’s narrative encourages us to take on the character’s perspective by enacting his fumbling gestures as he tries (and fails) to light a match, or as he looks at his own fingers, which he cannot feel. This kind of empathy involves what Anežka Kuzmičová (2014) calls “enactment imagination,” which she distinguishes from other kinds of mental imagery whereby we experience a story’s events and charac-



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ters from an external viewpoint: in enactment imagination, readers imaginatively enact or perform the inner experience they are ascribing to a character. Whether enactment imagination develops or not depends on both textual factors and readers’ predispositions. Certainly, a story like London’s “To Build a Fire” is especially conducive to this kind of response, because of the constant attention being paid to the protagonist’s bodily experience. The narrative constructs a space that is centered on the man’s body: if it is so effective at conveying what the Yukon is like—its “sense of place,” as geographers would say (Foote & Azaryahu, 2009)—it is largely because we’re given the chance to experience this frozen landscape through the (embodied) mediation of the protagonist. Readers’ experience is made to coincide, in their imagination, with the body they attribute to the character. The way in which the space of the story discloses itself to readers is thus closely bound up with bodily patterns; it builds on low-level, automatic embodied simulations of the kind we have explored in the previous section in order to give rise to a fully conscious experience of taking on the character’s body.

4. Discourse The forms of bodily involvement we have discussed so far are directed at characters and at the actions they perform and may lead readers to develop an illusion of presence in the spatial setting of the narrative. These are all aspects of the “story” in the narrow sense. Narratologists have long distinguished the story proper from the formal strategies through which it is presented, with the latter being referred to as “discourse” (see, e.g., Chatman, 1978). The distinction between story and discourse can be further illustrated through the widely used “storyworld” metaphor: the story is the world-like domain in which we understand the events recounted by the narrative (involving what characters, for what reasons, and in what locations, etc.); the discourse, by contrast, is the verbal or at least semiotic presentation of that storyworld. Could it be that readers’ engagement with discourse is also based on bodily experience? Answering this question is less intuitive than it was for the story, whose elements all bear a clear relationship to the body (since characters have a body, space is normally apprehended through our bodies, etc.). Discourse is by definition more conceptual: it is the logic of the telling, the order and manner in which the events and actions of the story have been arranged by the storyteller in order to bring about certain effects on the audience. Yet there are ways of showing that even readers’ understanding of discourse is shaped by the body: in previous work (Caracciolo, 2014b), I identified two strategies for closing this gap, calling them the “experiential” and “cognitive-linguistic” approach. Let us start with the former. I will build on the account offered by two scholars, Meir Sternberg and David Velleman, whose work on narrative discourse an-

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ticipates my experiential approach, although they have not spelled out fully its implications from an embodied perspective. According to Meir Sternberg (2001), narrative is defined by a double temporality: the temporality of the story, which is the inferred chronology of the events told by the narrative; and the temporality of discourse, which is the order of presentation of those events (and may deviate significantly from the order in which the events happened). The discrepancy between story and discourse time is responsible for three emotional effects of narrative—effects so widespread that Sternberg calls them “narrative universals”: they are suspense, curiosity, and surprise. In suspense, we wonder about the outcome of an action sequence that is located in the future of story time (e.g., will character X die?). In curiosity, we wonder about a piece of information that has been omitted by the discourse but is located in the past of story time (character Y was killed, but who is the murderer?). Finally, in surprise, we’re forced to revise our understanding of the story because of the delayed revelation of a fact or a past event (if character Z was already dead at the time of the murder, then he couldn’t have killed Y). Like all emotions, suspense, curiosity, and surprise may have an affective (and therefore embodied) component: they may—and indeed typically do— lead to distinct bodily feelings. Suspense, for instance, has something in common with holding one’s breath, curiosity may be experienced as a tingling sensation, surprise as a sharp jolt. While the exact nature of these feelings may vary from reader to reader, and from case to case, these examples demonstrate how the ways in which we respond to the progression of narrative—to its discourse—are more embodied than we may think at first. Philosopher David Velleman puts this point as follows: “The cadence that makes for a story is that of the arousal and resolution of affect, a pattern that is biologically programmed. Hence we understand stories viscerally, with our bodies” (2003, p. 13). Sternberg’s suspense, curiosity, and surprise are emotional effects that complicate and enrich the “cadence” posited by Velleman. Consider London’s “To Build a Fire”: the first pages of the short story create certain expectations in readers, who quickly grasp the danger in which the reckless protagonist finds himself. These expectations are affective as well as conceptual: not only do we mentally entertain the scenario of the protagonist’s death, but we experience a sense of apprehension arising from that scenario; this bodily feeling drives our interest in the story. When the protagonist falls into a pool of icy water, the danger becomes more concrete and our apprehension turns into fullf ledged suspense and dread at the man’s seemingly inevitable demise. The long, painstaking descriptions of the man trying (calmly at first, desperately after his initial attempts fail) to build a fire only exacerbate the suspense by delaying the outcome of the story. The man’s eventual death is the “resolution,” to use Velleman’s term. Therefore, the narrative progression can be described as a series of gradual shifts in bodily affect: from the vague sense of foreboding created by the



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opening pages to the suspense rising as the protagonist’s situation deteriorates; this feeling plateaus out when we witness the man’s failure to overcome the main obstacle to his survival (the wet clothes); finally, it dwindles to a core of wistful interest in the man’s fate after his death. London’s story is clearly quite linear in its progression—hence its illustrative value—but longer and more sophisticated narratives can greatly complicate these embodied dynamics. Through this experiential approach, even something as apparently abstract as discourse can be connected to the body: like music, narrative gives rise to a certain rhythm that is felt in bodily terms. Another possibility for embodying narrative discourse builds on the notion of “image schemata,” which is one of the cornerstones of cognitive linguistics—a field that has emerged in the wake of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) inf luential work on metaphor. In this tradition, an image schema is a pattern deriving from perceptual and bodily experience (for discussion, see Hampe, 2005). A classic example is the idea of a “path,” which arises from our experience of moving through space. Lakoff and Johnson’s intuition was that patterns like a path are typically used to structure abstract concepts, for instance in the following sentence from an online magazine: “the path for Palestinian freedom and statehood has been  obstructed by Israel’s continuing policy of occupying and colonizing Palestinian territory” (Shaath, 2010). These words combine two image schemata—path (to Palestinian freedom) and obstacle (Israel’s policy)—in a way that translates relatively abstract concepts and intangible entities into a concrete scenario: a goal-directed movement is halted by a physical obstacle. Other examples of image schemata are “up-down,” “equilibrium,” “superimposition,” or “cycle” (for a more extensive inventory, see Evans & Green, 2006, p. 190). These are all perceptual patterns that underlie human conceptualization in a wide variety of contexts. Narrative structure itself can be seen as building on such image schemata. Cognitive literary scholar Michael Kimmel (2005; 2009) makes a convincing case for this idea, though his hypotheses would have to be tested in experimental studies. For instance, Kimmel (2005) analyzes the plot of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in terms of an image-schematic opposition between Western culture and Africa; within this structure Kimmel identifies a number of other image schemata, including the “path” (the protagonist’s journey into the heart of darkness), the “attraction” exerted by Africa, and the “barrier” the protagonist has to overcome. As Kimmel suggests, image schemata are at the root of the affective contours that accompany our experience of narrative discourse: “Such image schemas can be sensed by readers, often in their bodies, as an arc of FORCE tension or denouement as reinstated BALANCE schema (Johnson, 1993), as electromyography of readers suggests (Malmo 1975)” (Kimmel, 2009, p. 173). This is made particularly evident in London’s short story by the fact that the progression of the narrative largely coincides with the protagonist’s path-like movement in space: when the

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man has to stop after falling into a pond of icy water, the extreme cold becomes an almost physical obstacle to his journey (and to the larger journey that is his life). Discourse structures can thus be analyzed as an array of dynamic tensions and oppositions that are linked, experientially and/or conceptually, with embodied modes of interaction with the world. Of course, the relationship between image schemata and embodiment is looser and more metaphorical than readers’ empathetic engagement with characters’ bodies; but this cognitive-linguistic approach is still important in that it shows how narrative structure, even understood at an abstract level, can be grounded in schemata that are experientially derived.

5. Interpretation So far, I have discussed readers’ embodied involvement in terms of simulative responses to action verbs, empathy for characters, and bodily feelings and image-schematic structures emerging from narrative discourse. These are relatively basic and universal responses, but we should not forget that our body is an extremely complex machine, whose workings are regulated by culture as well as by biological factors and cognitive predispositions: as Mark Johnson puts it, our bodies are constituted […] by cultural artifacts, practices, institutions, rituals, and modes of interaction that transcend and shape any particular body and any particular bodily action. These cultural dimensions include gender, race, class (socioeconomic status), aesthetic values, and various modes of bodily posture and movement. (2008, p. 175–76) A principled account of embodiment in reading should take this cultural dimension into account, insofar as socio-cultural conceptions of the body are likely to significantly affect the ways in which readers interpret narrative. These conceptions may ref lect the author’s and reader’s culture as well as personal experiences. Daniel Punday’s work yields a number of insights into this level of embodiment, resulting in a “corporeal hermeneutics—a theory of how the text can be meaningfully articulated through the body” (2003, p. 5). London’s “To Build a Fire” can, once again, help illustrate this idea. The title is a quintessential example of a bodily action. As soon as it becomes clear that the story’s outcome depends on the man’s inability to build a fire, the title takes on ironic overtones. In turn, this irony ties in with the narrator’s already quoted ref lection on “man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold” (London, 1998, p. 342). The protagonist meets his demise because, in his foolishness, he oversteps these limits, entering a territory where the human body



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does not work as we would expect it to: even the basic embodied action of building a fire becomes impossible. This reading can be further complicated by factoring in the other body that appears in this short story—namely, the nonhuman body of the husky. Jack London was deeply inf luenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection (see Berkove, 2004): throughout his work, he explored the ruthless individualism and struggle for survival that—in London’s view—underlie human societies as well as animal life. Thus, in the passage quoted at the beginning of this chapter the narrator of “To Build a Fire” emphasizes that the man’s death is caused by his lack of imagination, which compounds the evolutionary unfitness of his body to withstand this extreme cold. By contrast, huskies are well-adapted to this weather and know instinctually how to survive in it (by burrowing under the snow, we are told repeatedly). A few instants before dying, the man even feels “a great surge of envy as he regarded the creature [the dog] that was warm and secure in its natural covering” (London, 1998, p. 351). The dog does not know how to build a fire: it appreciates the fire’s warmth but does not appear to need it in order to survive. After the man’s death, the focalization switches to the husky. Initially puzzled by the man’s decision to lie down and “sleep,” the dog eventually smells “the scent of death” and understands what happened. The story’s last sentence reads: “[the husky] turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers” (ibid. p. 357). The animal’s nonchalant “trot” is an ironic comment on the man’s foolishness. In this way, the short story employs the animal’s body—which is governed by simple but effective instincts—as a foil to the man’s hubris: even humans’ reliance on technology (of which fire is an archetype) cannot protect them from their own frail bodies and lack of judgment. As this brief discussion only begins to show, the body serves in narrative as an interpretive hotspot: the representation of characters’ bodies is bound up with a wide array of cultural evaluations and judgments, which readers negotiate in dialogue with the author’s creative choices and with their own (partly personal, partly culturally derived) interests and predispositions. The bodies represented by narrative—in the case of London’s short story, the human body of the man and the nonhuman body of the husky—thus participate in readers’ construction of interpretive meanings, which in turn may shape and deepen their understanding of various forms of embodiment (human and nonhuman) outside of narrative. The cognitive-level responses I have discussed in the first part of the article are always already entangled with cultural meanings at this level, and in fact, embodied involvement in prose narrative (through empathy for characters or absorption in the plot) may encourage readers to engage with cultural representations and evaluations of the body. For instance, work on “narrative persuasion” by psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock (2000) suggests that empathy and immersion correlate with the extent to which readers’ beliefs are changed by narrative. This

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process feeds into what this collection refers to as the “medial body”—that is, the way in which our ordinary forms of embodiment are shaped and constituted by mediated practices.

6. Conclusion Reading may seem removed from the domain of the everyday, embodied action and interaction; it may have been conceptualized in Western culture as the intellectual pursuit par excellence, but it still involves our bodies in ways that can no longer be ignored. Our imagination of, and engagement with, the storyworlds of fiction build on our embodiment through the mechanisms examined in this chapter: embodied simulations, bodily empathy, somatic feelings, body-oriented readings, and evaluations. Thus, the conception of embodiment articulated in this chapter spans a wide spectrum, from relatively basic responses to language, up to sophisticated cultural evaluations (for more on this spectrum, see Caracciolo, 2014a). In literary reading—as in any other human practice—embodiment operates at multiple levels, which can be probed only through careful interdisciplinary work. Not only that: literature can encourage us to adopt, in our imagination, bodies different from our own. When London’s short story switches, at the end of the narrative, from the man’s to the dog’s consciousness, this shift in internal focalization invites us to engage with the animal’s embodied perspective on the storyworld. In “To Build a Fire” this is just a local effect, too short-lived to create a strong feeling of identification with the animal’s body, but fiction can do much more than this. As we read in J. M. Coetzee’s novella The Lives of Animals, some kinds of literature ask us to “imagine our way into [the animal’s] way of moving, to inhabit [its] body” (1999, p. 51). Nor is this effect limited to animal narratives: in reading, we can come to inhabit a disabled body, or a body of a different gender or sexual orientation. This illusion—which may well have an effect on our real-world beliefs and attitudes—depends on the author’s skillful use of embodied cues, which draw our real bodies into the narrative even as they effect a number of subtle changes in our imagination of the body. This dynamic is made possible by the fact that the body is not a fixed entity but a bundle of potentialities. While grounded in our biological body, our “medial body”—the concept at the center of this collection—can be reshaped by culture and by imaginative acts, such as those we perform when engaging with narrative in prose and other media. The body thus becomes an infinitely complex membrane between biology, cognition, and culture. Fiction is valuable because it can hold a mirror up to this complexity, yielding insight into the multidimensional nature of embodiment.



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References Berkove, Lawrence I. (2004). Jack London and Evolution: From Spencer to Huxley. American Literary Realism, 36 (3), 243-55. Caracciolo, Marco (2013). Blind Reading: Toward an Enactivist Theory of the Reader’s Imagination. In Lars Bernaerts, Dirk De Geest, Luc Herman, & Bart Vervaek (Eds.), Stories and Minds: Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative (pp. 81–106). Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. —. (2014a). Interpretation for the Bodies: Bridging the Gap. Style, 48 (3), 385-403. —. (2014b). Tell-Tale Rhythms: Embodiment and Narrative Discourse. Storyworlds, 6 (2), 49-73. Caracciolo, Marco, & Kukkonen, Karin (2014). Cognitive Literary Study: Second-Generation Approaches. Special Issue. Style, 3 (48), 404-410. Chatman, Seymour (1978). Story and Discourse. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press. Coetzee, John M. (1999). The Lives of Animals. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Coplan, Amy (2004). Empathic Engagement with Narrative Fictions. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 62 (2), 141-52. Esrock, Ellen J. (2004). Embodying Literature. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11 (5-6), 79-89. Evans, Vyvyan, & Green, Melanie (2006). Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Foote, Kenneth E., & Azaryahu, Maoz (2009). Sense of Place. In Rob Kitchin & Nigel Thrift (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography 10, (pp. 96100). Amsterdam: Elsevier. Gallagher, Shaun (2005). How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gaut, Berys (1999). Identification and Emotion in Narrative Film. In Carl Plantinga & Greg M. Smith (Eds.), Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion, (pp. 200-16). Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Gibbs, Raymond W. (2005). Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Glenberg, Arthur M., & Kaschak, Michael P. (2002). Grounding Language in Action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9 (3), 558-65. Green, Melanie C., & Brock, Timothy C. (2000). The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79 (5), 701-721. Hampe, Beate (2005). Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics: Introduction. In Beate Hampe (Ed.), From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, (pp. 1-12). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.

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Hauk, Olaf, Johnsrude, Ingrid, & Pulvermüller, Friedemann (2004). Somatotopic Representation of Action Words in Human Motor and Premotor Cortex. Neuron, 41 (2), 301-7. Jahn, Manfred (1996). Windows of Focalization: Deconstructing and Reconstructing a Narratological Concept. Style, 30 (2), 241-67. Johnson, Mark (1993). Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. — (2008). What Makes a Body? The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 22 (3), 159-68. Kimmel, Michael (2005). From Metaphor to the ‘Mental Sketchpad’: Literary Macrostructure and Compound Image Schemas in Heart of Darkness. Metaphor and Symbol, 20 (3), 199–238. —(2009). Analyzing Image Schemas in Literature. Cognitive Semiotics, 5, 159-88. Kuzmičová, Anežka (2014). Literary Narrative and Mental Imagery: A View from Embodied Cognition. Style, 48 (3), 275-93. Lakoff, George, & Johnson, Mark (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press. London, Jack (1998). To Build a Fire. In Earle Labor & Robert C. Leitz III (Eds.), The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories, (pp. 341-57). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Malmo, Robert B. (1975). On Emotions, Needs, and Our Archaic Brain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (2002). Phenomenology of Perception (Colin Smith, Trans.). London; New York: Routledge. Punday, Daniel (2003). Narrative Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Narratology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Scarry, Elaine (2001). Dreaming by the Book. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Shaath, Nabeel (2010). Why Israeli Settlement Construction Must Stop. The Christian Science Monitor (blog). Retrieved from mentary/Opinion/2010/1025/Why-Israeli-settlement-construction-must-stop (accessed 25/10/2019). Sternberg, Meir (2001). How Narrativity Makes a Difference. Narrative 9 (2), 115-22. Thompson, Evan (2007). Look Again: Phenomenology and Mental Imagery. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6, 137–70. Velleman, J. David (2003). Narrative Explanation. The Philosophical Review, 112 (1), 1-25.


Medial Bodies: Forays into Artistic and PhilosophicalAnthropological Research Martin Dornberg and Daniel Fetzner The purpose of the present paper is to show how media artistic performances or installations deal- with topics and issues which can be understood as genuine contributions to the following questions: which entanglements can be noticed today between the body and media? How can these interweavings be understood or observed while using artistic installations? And what role is played by fictional or factual elements? In order to propose some answers to these questions the following projects shall be considered: the Intercorporeal Splits project cycle with three Skype performances and the artistic intervention BUZZ in an Indian insect laboratory. The presentation of these projects aims to show how the body gains new dimensions through artistic practices and how these dimensions reinvent the bodily structure. In this process of transformation fictional, factual, and factional elements contributing to the acts of reinvention shall be considered.

1. The Intercorporeal Splits Research Cycle 1.1 Skype virtuality, embodiment, and the hybrid status of medial bodies Letters, telephone, and other communication channels: there are certainly many ways to communicate with other people at a distance. For a decade now, we have been making increasing use of digital live channels such as Skype, which does not only bridge distances but also creates new types of media interweaving. As in the cultural technique of telephoning, in this topology there is no longer a physical buffer between the here and the there. There is no in-between and certainly no measurable distance for an ‘in-between’ in mediatised space. The reduction of the “physical” in this space leads to a kind of “fictivisation” or “de-factualisation”, due to its being less tangible. The conceptual promises of a new immediacy of ubiquitous media from intelligent environments are insufficient—rather, we are currently dealing with an absolute prioritisation of mediation. Hence the question how the relationships be-


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tween the individual, the body, and the milieu emerge in a new way in the form of media and technical structures1 unfolds. From the perspective of the body turn and embodiment theories, these structure formations shall be understood as being eminently bodily/embodying, and as creating new “embeddings”.2 “Body turn” is an expression and promoter of significant cultural and technological changes of high relevance and current social images and ideas. How bodies are act-ually performed in real, social, literary and media terms is central to our current understanding of ourselves and the world and to the constitution of our identity. In such a context the media staging of physicality and the body has a particularly important status. The three Skype performances mentioned in this paper, carried out from 2010 to 20133, do not focus on the separating impulses of the acting subjects and their media. They rather pursue a radically media-ecological, body-related perspective. We investigate extended phenotypes4, caused by the continuous change of our organisms by means of electronic channels. Seen in this way, Skype does not connect separate persons and places. It rather contributes to the formation of common environments and embeddings through presence, experience of voice, skin and rhythm, among other things, and to generate a medial ‘entanglement while using temporarily digital technology5. In the performances described in more detail below, what is established is not only a cognitive and/or emotive and/or musical connection between the interacting persons and the media used (music, techniques, materials, etc.). This process itself is understood by us as an eminently physical/embodying one and builds up a new “superpersonal”, emergent, physical “third” reality between, and with the human and non-human actors involved. It builds a reality relevant, for instance, in hormonal, gestural, and medial terms, and hence materially relevant. For this reason we called this type of reality the “third body”. According to the central assumption of this article, the level of factuality in our projects refers not only to the “act-ual” actors of the performances (“things”: artists, places, the Skype connection, digital algorhythms, the music, etc.), but 1 Erich Hörl, (2014). Tausend Ökologien. In Diedrich Diederichsen, Anselm Franke (Eds.). The Whole Earth. Kalifornien und das Verschwinden des Außen. Berlin: Sternberg Press. 2 Jörg Fingerhut et al., (2013). Philosophie der Verkörperung: Grundlage zu einer aktuellen Debatte. Berlin: Suhrkamp. 3 Daniel Fetzner & Martin Dornberg, (2015). Intercorporeal Splits. Künstlerische Forschung zur Medialität von Stimme, Haut und Rhythmus, Leipzig: Open House. With articles by Jean-Luc Nancy, Klaus Theweleit, Georg Christoph Tholen and others. See 4 Richard Dawkins, (1982). The Extended Phenotype: The Gene as the Unit of Selection, Oxford: Freeman. 5 Martin Dornberg, (2014). Dritte Körper. Leib und Bedeutungskonstitution in Psychosomatik und Phänomenologie. In Arno Böhler, Christian Herzog, & Alice Pechriggl (Eds.). Korporale Performanz. Zur bedeutungsgenerierenden Dimension des Leibes (pp. 107-127). Bielefeld: transcript.

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also to what is “done” (lat. factum) in a double sense of the word: what happens in the interaction between the imaginary/virtual worlds/bodies and the real bodies, and what act-ually really emerges, particularly through the newly created superpersonal common reality and its specific mediality. The status of the latter or of this new “thing” is, of course, a little more fragile, “ephemeral”, than the factual status e.g. of the performer himself.6 All Skype performances create partially invented worlds inf luenced by fictional elements, elements that have imaginary character. The performances “tell” about these imaginary worlds via their forms of realisation, transport them and/ or not only exhibit them in fact but also create hybrid forms of mediality and corporeality.” “Body images”7 of people or human bodies in the field of mediality (e.g. mediated via video or Skype) interact with “body images” of people and human bodies in reality (of the participating artists and the audience). In this field of mutual de- and re-territorialisation8 the body gains a hybrid, transitional character “on both sides” of the interaction.9

1.2 Three media ecological interventions—Intercorporeal Splits “Close to noise, chaos and deadly disorder new things arise.” Michel Serres The Intercorporeal Splits project is divided into a cycle of three Skype performances and exhibitions. The translocal improvisation Voice viaviolin10 (VVV, 2010/11) generates third body experiences of two musicians of digital interphysicality. Peau/ Pli11 (PP, 2012) aims to develop and unfold reality shifts, transitions, and f luctu6 Martin Dornberg, (2020). Flüchtig und gestaltbar. Zur Zwischenleiblichkeit und Umweltbezogenheit “dritter Körper“ im Ausgang von Experimenten mit der “zweigriffigen Baumsäge. In: Petra M. Meyer, (Hg.) (2018). Ephemer; München: Fink. 7 The term “body image” is defined differently in developmental psychology, psychoanalysis, psychosomatics, and philosophy (e.g. phenomenology). However, what is common among these definitions is that it is not about purely cognitive or emotional representations of the body, but about bodily/embodying processes that also play a role in incorporating the body and its interactions with the environment on a fundamental level, while also contributing towards its formation. Cf. Thomas Fuchs, (2009). Das Gehirn—ein Beziehungsorgan: Eine phänomenologisch-ökologische Konzeption. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer. 8 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, (1997/2002). Tausend Plateaus: Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie. Berlin: Merve. 9 Denisa Butnaru, Introduction, in this volume. 10  Retrieved from Retrieved from 11 



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ations between different urban situations by means of dance and signal-boosting electrodes. Finally, Embedded Phase Delay12 (EPD, 2012/13) is a performance on the Helmholtz phenomenon of the missing half-second13 between a dancer, a tabla player, and a musician who, with the help of his electronic equipment, revises the sounds coming in from the other locations and re-forms them. On the theoretical level Intercorporeal Splits uses the environmental model of the biologist Jakob v. Uexküll14, the analyses of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Henri Lefebvre15 of such concepts as “plateau” and “rhythm”, as well as the concept of “intercorporeality” of the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty.16 In order to create a rhythmic-spatial multi-layered nature for the performances, the actors were embedded in an Indian insect laboratory, a Mediamarkt (electronics retailer) in South Baden in Germany, in the rhizomatic network of the megacity Cairo, as well as in a former workers’ pub in Freiburg/Haslach (Germany). According to Deleuze & Guattari, rhythms are “born of constant transcodings out of chaos”17 and only become effective through links from one milieu into another. Through the medial interplay of improvisation artists via voice, skin and rhythm in the respectively created common environments, local “functional circuits” are set up with specific ‘temporal structures’18.These have an impact on the event as an induction of trance. This works precisely because Cairo has a completely different rhythm from Bangalore. The data connections oscillate differently from the micro-rhythms of the body, and the vocal cords oscillate differently from loudspeaker membranes. The individual ‘embeddings’ experience an asynchronicity via the technomedial connection, while the artists’ bodies expand kinaesthetically via improvisation into their field of media-ecological action. In this hyperlocal, but goal-orient-

12 Retrieved from 13 Henning Schmidgen, (2010). Die Helmholtz-Kurven. Auf der Spur der verlorenen Zeit. Berlin: Merve. 14 Jakob von Uexküll, (1973). Theoretische Biologie. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp., and Jakob von Uexküll, (1980). Kompositionslehre der Natur. Ausgesuchte Texte. Frankfurt a. Main: Propyläen. 15 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, (2004). Tausend Plateaus. Berlin: Merve. See also Henry Lefebrve, (2013). Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Bloomsbury. 16 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1986). Das Sichtbare und das Unsichtbare: Gefolgt von Arbeitsnotizen. München: Fink., and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1966). Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung. Berlin: De Gruyter. 17 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, 1997/2002, p. 429. 18 Jakob von Uexküll, 1973.

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ed mediation19 through contexts of action a “current without beginning or end”20 is created, generating an artistic-performative intercorporeality 21 among actors. The projects of Intercorporeal Splits open up and deal with both the musical or theatrical performance and the genuine body. This raises various theoretical and practical questions: how do proprioception, body feeling, and the sense of time and space of the persons involved change during the performances or during their physical embedding? How do beat, mood, tempo, breath, body performance, and the moving image develop in the medial in-between? How does consciousness ‘experiment with time and space, and how do technical elements transform our physical being? Time and mediality are not understood here as a linear f low; rather, they are a field of superimposed temporal structures and ecologies, continuously re-formed through discontinuous embodiments or milieu formations as the rhythms of a situation, a feeling, or a thought can obviously not be synchronised exactly. The body simply is not a metronome. Overlapping time and space windows open up a multitude of non-positionable spaces between event and perception. This is precisely why, despite or because of the artefacts of compression among actors, forms of digital intermediate corporeality arise in Skype encounters. Intercorporeal Splits investigates how the oscillating transmission gaps are experienced, with which experiences of interaction they are filled, and which medial ecologies arise in this milieus and how these can be theoretically grasped.22 The projects we developed create unstable and over-complex situations, some of which can only be mastered through play and improvisation. When a dancer rolls through public streets in an inf latable as an improvising city nomad and a 19 Martin Dornberg, (2013). Die zweigriffige Baumsäge: Überlegungen zu Zwischenleiblichkeit, Umweltbezogenheit und Überpersonalität. In Thiemo Breyer (Ed.), Grenzen der Empathie. Philosophische, psychologische und anthropologische Perspektiven, (pp. 239-259). Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink. And Martin Dornberg, (2014). Dritte Körper. Leib und Bedeutungskonstitution in Psychosomatik und Phänomenologie. In Arno Böhler, Christian Herzog, & Alice Pechriggl (Eds.). Korporale Performanz. Zur bedeutungsgenerierenden Dimension des Leibes, (pp. 103-122). Bielefeld: transcript. 20 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, 1997/2002, p. 41. 21 On this term cf. Merleau Ponty 1986, 1966, op. cit. and see below. 22 The research process of the three subprojects of Intercorporeal took place in five phases: 1. Embedding into medial and philosophical/anthropological discourses 2. Consolidation of actions in the form of live performances in urban situations 3. Reflection in the form of immediate subsequent conversations with the artists and the audience 4. Processing/treatment/folding of the medial material gained, for instance in university serminars and new projects or exhibitions. 5. Presentation and discussion of the results at specialist conferences on topics relating to artistic research and performative philosophy. Cf. Fetzner, Dornberg, 2015, pp. 209-222.



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violinist on a donkey cart moves through anarchic spaces of post-revolutionary Cairo, familiar orders and references inevitably fall to pieces. The newly created situations can be regarded as morphogenetic fields in which endo- and exo-conceptual ‘signalling molecules’ diffuse into the surrounding tissue and into all participants. The resulting media-ecological structure creates superpersonal, medial “third” physicalities23 Every cell in the body has sensory and effector functions, but how does the mediation between the material and the immaterial work? Which physicalities and medialities are used, created, and explorable? Function and control can hardly be spoken of here any more. One may find rather a ‘pathic existence’24 of acting subjects in a contingent environment. A main method and artistic stylistic device of the three projects of Intercorporeal Splits is improvisation. It exposes the coexistence of all participants, the emergence of local medialities, and ‘local ecologies’25. Their constitution becomes tangible and at the same time observable and explorable. In a tension (split) between success and failure, between participation and disruption, there are moments of environmental power26, which include all technical-medial, human, material, environmental actants on an eminently physical level. Through the artistic means of improvisation, it becomes possible to perceive sequences of genuine medial and physical participation on the one hand, and of the parasitic27, the interruption of affiliations and “participation without participation”28, on the other hand. In relation to the question of faction and fiction at the core of this essay, the following can be stated: the projects generate a specific form of factuality since they also have a real character. They are experienced as a concert performance (VVV and EPD) or as a theatre performance (PP). In “Peau Pli” the imaginary el-

23 “Deleuze and Guattari insist that the formation of territories is not a secondary product of basic drives (as Lorenz and others posit), but instead is its own explanation. They recognize that various functions (sexual, alimentary, aggressive, predatory) are organized within a territory, but no single function ‘causes the territory to come into existence. Various functions ‘are organized or created only because they are territorialized, and not the other way around. The T factor, the territorializing factor, must be sought elsewhere: precisely in the becoming-expressive of rhythm or melody, in other words, in the emergence of proper qualities (color, odor, sound, sillhouette)ʼ. Ronald Bogue, (2009). A thousand Ecologies. In Bernd Herzogenrath (Ed.), Deleuze|Guattari & Ecology, (pp. 42-56). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 24 Victor von Weizsäcker, (2005). Pathosophie. Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 10. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 25 Erich Hörl, 2014. 26 Mark Hansen, (2009): Medien des 21. Jahrhunderts. In: Erich Hörl (Ed.), Die technologische Bedingung, (pp. 365-409). Berlin: Suhrkamp. 27 On this term: Michel Serres, (1981/1987). Der Parasit. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp. and das Projekt BUZZ, see below. 28 Erich Hörl, 2014, p. 130.

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ement is stronger: the dancer in the ball and the actor who reads philosophical texts while washing his feet are actually present, but they are hardly of an everyday nature and not suitable for everyday life. They cannot only be re-presented according to a logic of reality, depicted or questioned in terms of normal everyday logic and usability. This fictional element, or the play of colours between fiction and faction, is reinforced by the use of road space in PP. On the street there are not only dancers and spectators of the performance but also the dancer interacts with inhabitants of the district, who are on the street and who are not privy to the fictional/theatrical/invented event. They experience the performance unprepared, not as a theatrical, but as a real encounter. They interact with the dancer under the premises of their everyday life (as drivers of their own cars or by impacting directly with the dancer’s ball) and thus create new facts—yet from the perspective of the performance, from its theatrical, fictional framework. Both levels change: fiction becomes faction. The real intervention of the young people at the end of PP even led to an injury of the dancer during the rolling down which was intended to end the performance. Here the fact of “intervention” ended the performance and led to a real change not only of the dancer and his health, but also of the theatrical situation. This ending (Lat. finis) effectively de-fined the performance as a faction. There are oscillations between fiction and faction. The strength of the performances, however, is their hybrid status, which recreates actual elements in terms of faction. Even in the two performances, which “only” form a Skype concert (VVV, EPD), the real situations are interspersed with fictionalised/fictitious elements. Which musician makes music on a donkey cart in the midst of street noise (VVV) Who improvises via Skype in an insect lab with another musician and a dancer at the same time (EPD). The media folds—e.g. the images of tabla players and dancers at EPD—are transferred synchronously to the Mediamarkt and the chamber stage and alienated by mixing and superposing elements. In addition to a new actual status (emergence, formation of new superpersonal structures), they also gain new fictitious, imaginary elements: the location of the performances as their location and time formations cannot be compared with those of usual realities. They are hyper-local/u-topical and at the same time f leeting/ephemeral.They can only be assigned to a tertiary space, between factuality and fictionality. It becomes “only” a space of the performances. The resulting transitional microstructures formed between the space of “fiction“ and “fact” cannot be clearly grasped, they can only be experienced. Borrowing the terminology of Deleuze and Guattari29, here we could speak of processes of de-and re-fictionalisation and de- and re-factualisation. Oscillating between fictionality and factuality also corresponds to the improvisational character of all three performances. Improvisation combines the 29 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, 1997/2002.



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factual (sounds, rhythms, etc.) with imaginary/fictive/unreal elements (e.g. in dance or linguistic ideas). The improvisation process is always forward-looking, sometimes unplanned, and thus also permeated by virtuality. At the same time, improvisation creates new facts: the process itself, for instance the new musical collaboration of the music/musicians, and the resulting meeting of media, into which “place” and “time” signs (Deleuze/Uexküll) of the respective places also enter. New facts are created, a happening which has a certain out-come (like the injury) and so on. These facts can then also be captured, for example videographically (by picture, sound, and interviews). The resulting mixture of fictional and factual elements is then documented.30

2. Corporeality and interface—media ecological mediators 2.1 Technologisation of the organic and hybrid bodies Our physicality, perception, and movement are increasingly conveyed in media-ecological terms today. The subjective body perception is integrated into the f low of technomedial feedback processes and into a new interplay of sensory and effector organs31. The body as interface between the media32 and the linearly discursive physicality of writing are supplemented by altered third bodies and forms of technocyclic body perception. A central question of our projects and research is therefore which trans- and intermedial forms of physicality result from this, which “medialities of proximity” or which forms of place and space emerge, and which connection patterns between the different actors of these novel world networks become recognisable. In the three projects of Intercorporeal Splits, the above-mentioned practically and theoretically relevant media-ecological problem areas and phenomena and their physical references are selected as a topic, listed, exhibited, made observable, and put up for discussion with special consideration for body memory. The aim of the respective interventions is the generation of artistic, medial, theoretical, but also practical application-related emergences of meaning.

30 In order to research these structure formations scientifically and artistically, we use interactive web platforms and formats of interactive documenting (idocs). Cf. Daniel Fetzner & Martin Dornberg, (2016). Partizipatives Parasitieren. Zum methodischen Potential interaktiver Webdokumentationen in der künstlerischen Forschung. In Oliver Fahle, Beate Ochsner, & Anna Wiehl. Augenblick. Konstanzer Hefte zur Medienwissenschaft, 65 (66), 40-56. Marburg: Schüren Verlag. Retrieved from 31 Jacob Von Uexküll, 1973. 32 Petra M. Meyer, 2008, pp. 286-296.

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These are also developed from observations, interviews, and usage analyses of the artistic interventions. The three projects of Intercorporeal Splits show that media are mediators between people and things, and that they inf luence the physical and sensual experience of reality. In all media processes, experiences of intercorporeality are therefore also at work, where place (‘oikos’) and the emergence of its own peculiar times33 are central. The omnipresence of mobile communication technologies and the penetration of everyday life with digital interfaces, as our projects show, result in paradigmatic changes in the human body and organic constitution: a changed anthropology. The increasing interweaving of human existence with digital processes and techno-facts leads, alongside a “technologisation of the organic”34 to strains and compressions in the temporal experience of consciousness. These phenomena change not only the ideas, but also the nature of man and his physicality, which leads to dissonances in the subjective experience of space, time, and the ego. The “here” of the body and the “now” of the present are put into a new relationship. This creates transient zones of medial corporeality.35 We spend a lot of time in transmedial spaces. States of dislocation and phenomena of deterritorialisation are the result, and they challenge our capacity for integration and imagination in a new way. Staying in these imaginative spaces of action has effects not only on the emotional, but also on the physical experience of reality. The body as a medium of interpersonal encounter is increasingly interwoven with digital interfaces, which leads to changed relationship and patterns between man and his environment. The experiences of ‘being to and in the world’ and their media ecology can be shaped, designed, and controlled differently, creating new dependencies and interdependencies. In this context, as problematised in our projects, the human body develops new sensory and cultural techniques to embed itself in the rapidly changing world and the associated interdependencies in the media, which requires continuous adaptation processes. We initially researched the phenomena of “intermediate corporeality” and the technomedial emergence of “third body” while using the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty36. This was further based on a theoretical and practical experiment: the tree sawing experiments of Christian and Haas, two Heidelberg-based 33 Helga Nowotny, (1993). Eigenzeit. Entstehung und Strukturierung eines Zeitgefühls. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp. 34 Jutta Weber, (2003). Umkämpfte Bedeutungen: Naturkonzepte im Zeitalter der Technoscience, (p. 130). Frankfurt a. Main: Campus. 35 Faction is the contamination of the fact by fictional elements. We see it as a process, which is what our performances illustrate. 36 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1986). Das Sichtbare und das Unsichtbare: Gefolgt von Arbeitsnotizen. München: Fink., and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1966). Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung. Berlin: De Gruyter.



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researchers in the working group of the general medicine doctor, psychosomaticist, and philosopher Victor v. Weizsäcker. In the experiment, two people work on a two-handled trim saw. Their movements are registered by an apparatus, the subjective experience of the participants is continuously queried, and the quantitative performance is also recorded. From these experiments, many conclusions can be drawn about successful interactions in the fields of communication and life processes. Successful performance results from successful coordination processes among each other and the type of task (the tree trunk or the sawing capacity). Feedback processes take place for all participants simultaneously through the entire process and the activity performed. The individuals, their bodies, and actions all merge with the overall event and performance to form a new whole: an overall body, which, as explained above, we named “the third body”.37 What is new, emergent, and what motivates interaction in this case is the process of performance creation, or the process of interaction itself. This process and its procedural success are bodily-physically determined and by the character of the interacting media. What is new is not little predetermined and shows either partially or completely new properties. Thus corporeality—as it is explored in the improvisations of the three subprojects—is always embedded in different social, media, and technical environments in a polysystemic way and can only be adequately understood through the production of superpersonal, complex bodies of action, and their emergent “third-body character”, but also through their “withdrawal”, “diastasis, and differential character”.38

2.2 Third Body and Phenomenology Similar thoughts are currently being discussed in cognitive science, with research in the vicinity of the Heidelberg psychiatrist and philosopher Thomas Fuchs, having strongly inf luenced the present approach. According to Thomas Fuchs and Hanne De Jaegher39 the currently dominant cognitive and representation-oriented theories of social cognition should be replaced by an enactive, intersubjective, and participatory paradigm. Current theories of social cognition are mainly based on representativist foundations and understand the phenomena of human interaction and communication only in a reduced and deformed way. Rather, it is a question of starting from the interaction and coordination of two embodied actors or of processes of mutual incorporation and intercorporeality within which 37 See the previous footnote and Klaus Theweleit, (2007). Übertragung, Gegenübertragung, Dritter Körper: Zur Gehirnveränderung durch neue Medien. Köln: Flusser Lectures. 38 Bernhard Waldenfels, (2002). Bruchlinien der Erfahrung. Frankfurt a. Main: Surkamp. 39 Thomas Fuchs, & Hanne De Jaegher, (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: Participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. In Phenomenol.Cogn.Sci., 8, 465-486.

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“the lived bodies of both participants extend and form a common intercorporality” (ibid., p. 465). Fuchs and De Jaegher discuss that the intentions of both interaction partners and their bodies connect with each other, merging in a specific way with their respective environment and the intentions of the other. “Their body schemas and body experiences expand and, in a certain way, incorporate the perceived body of the other. This creates a dynamical interplay which forms a particular phenomenal basis of social understanding and which we will describe as mutual incorporation” (ibid., p. 472). They emphasise that this process of mutual incorporation not only interconnects the two bodies and consciousnesses of the interaction partners, but also forms specific larger units with the environment. “Incorporation is not restricted to that which is near the skin, however—the lived body extends to whatever object it is interacting with” (ibid., p. 473). Similarly, how the blind person extends his body into the environment with his cane, which becomes an organ of relationship or touch, and the blind person no longer knows where his body or cane ends and the environment begins, the environment and its ability to act and form organs of perception is in turn transported via the cane, the air, sounds and other things into the blind person’s organism (ibid., p. 472). Similar processes can also be found—according to Fuchs and De Jaegher—in sport, e.g. in tennis (ibid., p. 474). Fuchs and De Jaegher emphasise that the joint interaction process develops its own embodying potency and its own emergent abilities to perceive and act on mediality: “The in-between becomes the source of the operative intentionality of both partners” (ibid., p. 476). In their article, Fuchs and De Jaegher work on aspects of “bipersonal” or “trilogical” entities in relation to the operative intentionality they are looking for— similarly to Christian and Haas (1949)40: 1. The processual logic becomes the source of the operational intentionality of both partners. 2. It can not only be attributed to one partner, but must also include value, target, and environmental and specific process variables. 3. The evolving capabilities of ‘memorising’ and ‘acting’ are related to each other and to the specific process and environmental variables. 4. The process logic gets a new, emergent quality, which is communicated to both interaction partners and is (thus also) operatively better available to them. Here a specific mediality is implied in and by the mutual relationship.

40 Paul Christian, & Renate Haas, (1949). Wesen und Formen der Bipersonalität. Stuttgart: Enke.



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In these enactive processes the bodies of the participants are central variables, components, and mediators and at the same time are the result and consequence of these “alogical” interactions that thwart any duality. Their emotions, moods, aspirations, and “body images” (co)constitute the involved medialities

Chiasmatic medialities and corporealities of disturbance Our three projects, referred to in this part of the essay, are inspired both on a theoretical and practical level by Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s later philosophy, and have been developed in the light of this in order to further differentiate it. Merleau-Ponty resolutely develops a philosophy of “intermediate corporeality” and understands the body as a “two-sheet being”41, which connects oneself not only with the other person, but also with the materiality of things and the world.Merleau-Ponty’s concept of ‘chiasm’ describes in this context precisely the crossover through which the two sides of the sheet, body and world, are intertwined: This mediation through reversal and this chiasm have the effect that there is not simply an antithesis of for oneself / for others, but that there is one being that contains all this in itself, first as sensual being and then as being without restriction [...]. Chiasm is not only exchange between me and others [...], it is also exchange between me and the world [...]: what begins as a thing ends as consciousness of the thing, and what begins as a ‘state of consciousness’ ends as a thing. (ibid., p. 274) The intermediate corporeality between people, or between people and things is never unambiguous but saturated with negativity, susceptible to disturbance and injury, and diastatic/split. For this reason, Merleau-Ponty sees the invisible, for example, as something that is closely connected to seeing. Distance and invisibility are just as necessary for visibility as proximity. “Negativity [...], the untouchable of touching, the invisible of seeing [...] is the other side or the reverse side [...] of sensual being” (ibid., p. 321). According to Merleau-Ponty, the body (which can both see and be seen) is the hinge (charnière) of this interaction, which Merleau-Ponty calls “f lesh (chair)”. In so far as nature is the other side of man, and the anonymous visible is realised by man, f lesh forms the texture between things and human beings. The “f lesh” is both the result and expression of this interweaving, this chiasm: “Where should we draw the line between body and world when the world is f lesh?” (ibid., p. 182). Hence, things are an extension of my body, just as my body is an extension of the world. When Merleau-Ponty claims that the subject is made of the same material

41 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, (1968). The Visible and the Invisible. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

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as the world, it means that we humans share our corporeality with things, for example our visibility but also invisibility. Without being able to go further into Merleau-Ponty’s theories here, one can ask in relation to the question of fictionality and factuality whether Merleau-Ponty’s theory of chiasm does not point to existentially inherently fictional and factual elements in the experience/perception of reality. These are not exclusively related to the subject and its constructional achievements, an aspect which is also called negativity by Merleau-Ponty or by Sartre42, but also to the reality itself, its diversity and variety. As a result, the chiasm of man and the world is always saturated on the side of both subject and object with virtuality and constructedness. Faction is the contamination of the real by fictional elements. This can happen in different media: films, literary narratives, and Skype performances in which entities, feelings, and atmospheres are contextually invented. The specificity of faction is precisely this: it breaks rules of the real. Bernhard Waldenfels, has strongly emphasised the aspect of disturbance, ‘diastasis and difference’, in his entire oeuvre based on the works of Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Derrida. Each ‘in between’—and this is also the subject of the three performances of Intercorporeal Splits—contains “processes of separation which are related to partings, isolation, and passing away” (Waldenfels, 2002, p. 175). On the one hand, these processes are temporal: “the shift gains a radically temporal sense when we simultaneously conceive the anteriority of an antagonism with the posteriority of the effect producing a response” (ibid., p. 178) and, on the other hand, to understand it spatially: “Shift means [...] that something or someone develops in the shift, so that the ‘shifted impression’ is never unified by a clear identification” (ibid., p. 179). Waldenfels speaks of a “time-space that is indicated in the union of diachrony and diatopia” (ibid., p. 180). Through the design of time and space, this interspace simultaneously possesses or generates its own medial and physical qualities and characteristics. Based on the phenomena of disturbance, diastasis, and difference, our artistic and philosophical projects have in addition to the phenomenological insights approached the concept of “parasiting” and the work of Michel Serres43. The concept of disturbance is central and became the connecting research field of our two follow-up projects (see below).44 If the term “parasite” is applied to the three projects 42 Martin Dornberg, (1989). Gewalt und Subjekt: Eine kritische Untersuchung zum Subjektbegrif f in der Philosophie J.P. Sartres. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. 43 Michel Serres, 1981/1987. 44 Martin Dornberg, (2017). Mitgeteilte und parasitäre Emergenz. Zwei Modelle verkörpernder Evolution. In Gregor Etzelmüller, Thomas Fuchs, & Christian Tewes (Eds.), Verkörperung. Eine neue interdisziplinäre Anthropologie, (pp. 281-311). München: De Gruyter. and Martin Dornberg, & Daniel Fetzner, (2017). Experimentelle Taktilität. Zur medienökologischen Erforschung von



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of Intercorporeal Splits, then they “parasitise” a social space, both materially and medially. They disturb, break through, boundaries and at the same time create new forms of embodiment, incentives, and intermediate bodies. All three projects also had to do directly with disturbances, performing, and investigating them. In the following we only mention the interruption of the Skype connection in “Voice via Violin”, its real vulnerability in “Peau/Pli”, and the question of delay or the possibility of connection in a diastatic space in “Embedded Phase Delay”. Michel Serres’ parasitology, as shown below, develops a disturbance-related concept of physicality and mediality, as well as of the “third”. This provides further possibilities of understanding and multiplication for our projects and for the question of the medial body and its relationship between fiction and faction. It is not the transmitter-receiver relationship which is fundamental for Serres, but that of communication and noise. Our projects and their understanding of body and mediality have thus changed through their own dynamics from a more success-oriented, results-oriented pole to a more complex, disturbance-oriented “parasitic” orientation. This and the related altered image of the body and its medialities will be further discussed with respect to two BUZZ projects following Intercorporeal Splits. These too embody the oscillation between fictional or invented, and factual elements and processes of their mutual re-territorialisation and de-territorialisation through installations, and help to clarify them conceptually/theoretically.

3.1 BUZZ—Parasitic intervention in an Indian insect laboratory “Background noise is the basis of being, and parasitism is the basis of relationships.” Michel Serres (1980: 83) The project Buzz—Parasitic Ecologies consisted of two parts: an intervention in a South Indian insect laboratory (2014) and a folding installation in Freiburg (2015).45 Both interventions focus on forms and concepts of the “parasitic”, as developed primarily by Michel Serres

Experimental system I—INFECTION/INTERVENTION (2014) In the summer of 2014, an artistic-media-ecological laboratory was built at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore. The laboratory investigated embodiments, observation, and media practices of social insects and participatory miZwischenkörpern. In Karin Harasser (Ed.), Auf Tuchfühlung. Zur Medialität des Taktilen, (pp. 39-63). Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 45 Daniel Fetzner & Martin Dornberg, (2015). BUZZ—Parasitäre Ökologien. Freiburg. Retrieved from

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crostructures of human and animal societies while using the South Indian wasp Ropalidia marginata as an example. The old wasp laboratory of the Centre for Ecological Sciences was converted into a temporary accommodation for BUZZ. Various formats such as Skype performances, installations, screenings, scientific experiments and discussions created interfaces between knowledge/theory, research practices, and art. The intervention saw itself as parasitic—and was also perceived as such on site, more precisely, as a transdisciplinary metamorphosis in which, on the one hand, knowledge productions are made observable, and, on the other, they were parasitised and created anew.

Experimental system II—DISSEMINATION (2015) In cooperation with the Freiburg ethnographic film festival, the results of BUZZ were presented and discussed in an art gallery as part of a two-week assemblage. A temporary insect laboratory was set up in the rooms of Gallery T66. A parasitic installation with a queen ant and three workers, visual connections and electroacoustic sounds produced interference, and a short-wave radio connection generated direct contacts with Bangalore, India. Video screenings, readings and performances with scientists and artists invited public discussion and transdisciplinary discussions. Within the framework of Experimental System II, participatory processes of etho-ethnographic encounters were realised in which human and non-human forms of communication and sense production were staged and investigated with respect to their medial and ecological embeddings. Processes of life, mutual reference, environmental formation and embodiment were made sensually experienceable by overlapping artistic, scientific, and philosophical/anthropological approaches in which people, animals, things, theories, and media are involved in different ways and which fertilise and parasitise each other.

3.2 Media as resonant milieux for the body and their animal dimensions In recent years, animals have been increasingly present media theory discourses, especially in the form of an ethological turn.46 If media are understood as resonant milieux rather than techniques, ‘animal’ factors, namely atmospheric, environmental, and organismic factors, such as for instance rhythms, play a much more important role in their understanding. Parasitic, viral, and microbial strategies 46 Among others, Eva Johach, (2011). Andere Kanäle: Insektengesellschaften und die Suche nach den Medien des Sozialen. In Marie-Luise Angerer, & Karin Harrasser (Eds.) ZfM, 4(1), 71–82., Niels Werber, (2011). Ameisengesellschaften: Eine Faszinationsgeschichte. Frankfurt a. Main: Fischer., cf. also in general ZfM 4(1).



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can also serve to better understand media processes and their interaction with humans and their environment.47 Cultural things and media are conceived as ‘quasi-objects’48 and as ‘cyborgs’49. The contrasts between humans, animals and technology, nature and culture are shrinking. Environmental education, mediality, embodiment and the parasitic50 become central categories of a networked new culture of understanding. Techniques can also be developed and applied by non-humans. Beavers build dams, termites build fantastic structures and algorithms interpret our behavior. These knowledge practices develop continuously in a variety of ways, are disseminated in a variety of ways, and as extended phenotypes51 become part of collective memories and multiple media ecologies. Of particular importance is the question of at what moments and in what form knowledge arises at all, how it is classified as such, to then finally (and yet simultaneously) to be conveyed in the media and ultimately embodied, materialised. The project cycle BUZZ—Parasitic Ecologies aims to investigate this question, make its microstructures observable and generate answers to it.

3.3 Media as Anthropo-parasites Ethnography, art, philosophy/anthropology, psychotherapy, and biology have developed observation methods to trace one’s own foreignness, one’s own unconsciousness, and one’s own genesis of meaning through dealing with the other and the foreign. They work with different methods on related questions. In spaces between art, science, and philosophy, new forms of pararasitic fertilisation processes of life, understanding and movement emerge. In this approach, the parasite is an important conceptual figure for providing orientation for artistic and epistemological intervention. The parasitic is envisaged as a living concept that helps to understand dimensions such as exchange, existence, life, science, thought, and art: just as the exchange between two beings can also be understood as parasitic— symbiotic and/or parasitic—and perhaps both sides pursue the same strategy. The term therefore needs other meanings. Their scientifically sensible strategic limitation runs the risk of failing to do justice to the transition between parasitism, 47 Jussi Parikka, (2010). Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cf. the interview of the authors with Jussi Parikka in Fetzner & Dornberg, 2015, p. 30. 48 Bruno Latour, (2014). Existenzweisen. Berlin: Suhrkamp. 49 Donna Haraway, (1991). A Cyborg Manifest., London: Routledge. 50 Michel Serres, 1981/1987, and for instance Lynn Margulis, (2018). Der symbiotische Planet oder Wie die Evolution wirklich verlief. Frankfurt a. Main: Westend. 51 Daniel Fetzner & Martin Dornberg, 2015.

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mutualism, and symbiosis. The parasite is always, at the same time, eminently physical, a material, thus not a purely spiritual figure. He realises bodily connections with specific media skills and qualities. Media connections can per se be conceived as a form of an organic medial-parasitic connection. Post-Snowden media are co-evolutionary and parasitic: Pull technology is a hungry creature that devours its host—with the apps that live as ectoparasites on and under our skin. Only occasionally are they annoying to their host. The boundaries between symbiotic and parasitic media are f luid. In any case, they are of an animal quality. “Ambient media” not only change our perceptions and movements parasitically, but directly (“psychosomatically”) change our physicality. Media matter. They not only transport the factual and the invented, but also form hybrids between these two dimensions by becoming part of everyday life. Parasitic relationships also exist in art. What Hal Foster52 describes as an ethnographic turning point is experiencing an enormous acceleration in the production of art due to digitalisation and globalisation. Artistic interventions have developed their own aesthetic formats: Artists in residence travel around the world in a “parasitic” search for artistic prey for galleries and art markets. Essentially, this art tourism resembles medical and military operations of get in quickly, act fast, get out. This also describes BUZZ’s strategy as an artistic parasite. In epistemology, the same question applies to art and science: are parasites the basic element of a knowledge system or its pathology? Who or what parasitises whom? BUZZ parasitises the Indian Institute of Science, Gallery T66 and the ethnographische Filmforum in order to mutate as a form of serious knowledge production into artistic research, to form a new body. It is precisely by such a mutation that the corporeal structure affirms its mediality. Therefore, the parasite nests in different systems, e.g. in a wasp laboratory, in order to make changes there and to initiate new forms of perceptions and movements through disturbances. Without these new bodies and mediality levels, there are no new experiences and no new thought.

4. The parasite from fiction to faction Serres relates the concept of the “parasite” to at least six different levels: 1. Parasites in the sense of real minute living creatures: real parasites. 2. Background noise (French Le parasite): these are interferences in the area of communication / media theory.

52 Hal Foster, (1996). The return of the Real. Boston: MIT Press.



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Parasite in the social/sociological sense: phenomena relating to e.g. economic phenomena of siphoning and exploitation. 4. Parasite/parasiting in the conceptual sense: each sense/concept has a part in other concepts in the chain of meaning, and shifts or parasitises these other concepts; each concept has a function of observation and therefore asks the question of the perspective, the outlook or the “direction” of the concept. 5. In the sense of theory of action: each intervention changes reality and at the same time must adapt to it at the same time. It creates something new, parasitises reality and at the same time is inf luenced / parasitised by the the latter in order to be able to bring about change at all. 6. In the “chiasmatic”—here levels 2-5 are involved: perception and movement, concepts and actions are incorporated in the interplay of mutual structure formation of exo-conceptual and endo-conceptual relations, of humans and the world, and of fiction and faction. The actors involved change, exploit, and “parasitise” each other. 3.

Here the concept of the parasite is used as a “traveling concept“53, which connects fictional and factual levels in different ways and thereby creates new conceptual and/or factual connections in other areas. Art challenges different factual levels. The BUZZ project, for example, deals on one level with animals (social insects), but also with their parasites. The wasps and ants in the IICS are threatened by real parasites on the one hand, but on the other hand they use a wealth of parasites (as food, as a weapon of war against enemy species, etc.). At the same time, the art project was a kind of “parasite” in the local scientific community. We disrupted, changed, and questioned processes and routines. The laboratory was the “host” who was not only “inspired” by our changes, which were also real (bamboo installations, spatial changes, lectures, performances, etc.), but also inf luenced and to some extent “exploited”. Since our interventions connected and mixed all six of the above-mentioned levels of the parasitic, a process of ref lection/change was initiated by the involved scientists: they were “parasitised” by our considerations, our real/factual intervention and not the least, by the concept of “parasite”. They became more aware, for example, to what extent they were dependent on the wasps/ants they were researching and how they were in their turn inf luenced/”parasitised” by them. Through our intervention, the vector of observation/inf luence even reversed for the scientists involved: the insects changed from objects (of observation) to subjects (which inf luence research itself).

53 Birgit Neumann & Ansgar Nünning, (2012). Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture. Frankfurt a. Main: de Gruyter.

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Scientists also became more aware of the interventional nature of their actions. The question of the observer’s perspective (hence including the perspective element of the concepts/ the research) was also more ref lected on. At first, the concept of the parasite was relatively fictitious, not very common, and not very useful for some of those involved. It belonged only to a part of its own science or to a completely different field of reality or scientific/artistic field (sociology, communication theory, art, philosophy). By its “travelling”, the concept of “parasite”, suddenly became more real. Something could be learned about “it”/. Starting from an area remotely distanced from science, through real interventions and the use of a transdisciplinary discourse or a transdisciplinary experimental system54 and travelling concepts, something was learnt/modified in one’s own discipline and factual elements were generated. In fact, the scientists in India, but also the visitors to our exhibition in the T66, subsequently paid more attention to “real” parasites (level 1), understood disturbances as an opportunity (level 2), treated power relations (gender, caste, etc.) or different cultural inf luences more carefully (level 3), and paid more attention to the observer point of view and the aspect of change in theory and practice/action (levels 4-6).

5. The medial body of performance art and its factographic potential In the media theoretical discussion, there are two major orientations which may be described as media marginalism and media fundamentalism. The first position refers to the secondary nature of media: “Starting from the transmission character of the medium, media are identified with the material conditions of realisation of drawing processes. Media transmit something that is not itself of the’nature’ of a medium”55. The opposite viewpoint is taken by media fundamentalism, which is based on the ineluctable a priori nature of the media. “Media thereby become the source of world production, the junction of our understanding of the world and self, and thus enter the void left behind by the erosion of the modern concept of subject.” 56 From our point of view and for the understanding of our projects, it is however crucial to remain open to both perspectives and to investigate their mutual areas of inf luence and parasitisation. Even when the transmission character of the me54 Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, (1997). Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 55 Erika Fischer-Lichte & Christoph Wulf, (2004). Praktiken des Performativen, (p. 131). Berlin: Akademie. 56 Ibid.



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dium is emphasised (its “transparency” and “mediating power”), a fundamental “intransparency or subversion of the transmitted”57 can always be observed (“opacity”, “alteration”). Instead of searching for ultimate definitions of the medium/ mediality, we believe it is important to consider the concrete practices (practices, techniques, materials, etc.) through which media are formatted and used. “To use something means: to deal with something that we have not created ourselves in such a way that it is changed at the same time. Repetition and change go hand in hand in use. Practices have the power to ‘follow’ programs, patterns, rules, scripts by modifying them at the same time. In execution there is always an ‘excess’ over what is carried out”. 58 According to Georg Christoph Tholen, different meanings of medium, media, and mediality can be worked out in terms of conceptual history.59 On the one hand, media are means of conveying and passing on meaning, information, and messages between senders and recipients. On the other hand, however, media should be seen in their specific media-related momentum, “not as a passive tool or instrument, but as the constructive activity of an’in-between’” (ibid., p. 151). In this way, media form their own meanings and spaces and open up their own spectrum of differences. Here, a simpler media concept (which includes written characters, for example) is extended to a more complex one in which media increasingly develop their own specific staged or performative power. When it is said that interaction processes such as sawing on the two-grip tree saw or microstructures of higher complexity such as language or Skype performances unfold their own mediality, reference is made to the fact that the superpersonal units of experience and behaviour, through and during their performance, generate specific feedback phenomena and their own bodily as well as medial “representation” and transformation processes. As Christian & Hass (1949) or Tholen (2005) argue, the superpersonal character of interactional-mechanical processes begins to differentiate itself from these references and their self-references. It partially detaches itself from them; and the new, detached, sometimes completely different processes intervene then in the “previous” ones, shaping them partly or completely. Thinking about “intermediate corporeality” as well as understanding “media” is not only about “communication” or “interaction” and their spiritual, emotive, technical, or other elements, but also and especially about a process of ref lecting on emergence.60 It is about understanding how alterity, relationality, artificiality, and third parties are accomplished in the interaction or in and through superper57 Ibid. 58 Ibid. 59 Georg Christoph Tholen 2005, p. 150 ff. 60 Martin Dornberg, 2017.

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sonal bodies of action. The concepts of a medial or third body also aim to support this view. In doing so, emergence and affection do not develop only through “doing”/participation, but also through “leaving”/letting go, through the involvement and generation of specific textures of time and physicality. Both in the tree sawing experiments and in our artistic projects, namely Intercorporeal Splits, human sensory perception and human behavior reorganise themselves, as well as the mediality in which they take place. The emergence of superpersonal “multilogical” systems of reference with their specific medialities leads to the “entanglement”61 of different spaces and intermediate bodies: that is it leads to the entanglement between a rather interphysical, interactive embodying pole on the one hand, and a differentiating medial, e.g. linguistic or technical pole, on the other. The process of entanglement between interphysical-interactional space and the space of difference-generating artificiality and third space unfolds its own dynamics, generates its own abilities of “perception” and “movement” (Von Uexküll, 1973), of perception and affection, but also of time, movement, and transience. The exhibition at Galerie T66, which concludes the BUZZ project and this contribution, shows and stages precisely these processes of the entanglement62 of science, philosophy and art, fiction and faction. Larger-than-life-sized ants, virtual ants are similarly real, by their contextualised function, like their real “doubles” in the ant colony built in the T 66. Real parasites (in the insect hotel at the window of the gallery building) and their mechanical “counterparts” in the tree in front of the exhibition building interact with sono- and geodetic data. Probably also with the nerves and parasites in the body of visitors to the exhibition. Immersed in a field of biological, artistic, scientific and philosophical information (newspapers, lectures, performances, etc.), of factuality and fiction, visitors are formatted, inf luenced and “parasitised” by these references, participating in this field of mutual inf luences, where media, human and non-human beings, things and actions constantly parasitise each other.

References Christian, Paul, & Haas, Renate (1949). Wesen und Formen der Bipersonalität. Stuttgart: Enke. Dawkins, Richard (1982). The Extended Phenotype: The Gene as the Unit of Selection. Oxford: Freeman. 61  Gernot Böhme, (2010). Der Raum leiblicher Anwesenheit und der Raum als Medium der Darstellung, In: Jürgen Hasse et al. (Eds.), Gelebter, erfahrener und erinnerter Raum, (p. 54). München: Albunea. 62 Retrieved from



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Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Felix (1997/2002). Tausend Plateaus: Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie. Berlin: Merve. Dornberg, Martin (1989). Gewalt und Subjekt: Eine kritische Untersuchung zum Subjektbegriff in der Philosophie J.P. Sartres. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. Dornberg, Martin (2013). Die zweigriffige Baumsäge: Überlegungen zu Zwischenleiblichkeit, Umweltbezogenheit und Überpersonalität. In Thiemo Breyer (Ed.), Grenzen der Empathie. Philosophische, psychologische und anthropologische Perspektiven, (pp. 239-259). Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink. Dornberg, Martin (2014). Dritte Körper. Leib und Bedeutungskonstitution in Psychosomatik und Phänomenologie. In Arno Böhler, Christian Herzog, & Alice Pechriggl (Eds.). Korporale Performanz. Zur bedeutungsgenerierenden Dimension des Leibes, (pp. 107-127). Bielefeld: transcript. Dornberg, Martin (2017). Mitgeteilte und parasitäre Emergenz. Zwei Modelle verkörpernder Evolution. In Gregor Etzelmüller, Thomas Fuchs, & Christian Tewes (Eds.), Verkörperung. Eine neue interdisziplinäre Anthropologie, (pp. 281-311). München: De Gruyter. Dornberg, Martin (2020). Flüchtig und gestaltbar. Zur Zwischenleiblichkeit und Umweltbezogenheit “dritter Körper” im Ausgang von Experimenten mit der “zweigriffigen Baumsäge”. In Petra M. Meyer (Hg.): Ephemer. München: Fink. Dornberg, Martin, & Fetzner, Daniel (2017). Experimentelle Taktilität. Zur medienökologischen Erforschung von Zwischenkörpern. In Karin Harasser (Ed.), Auf Tuchfühlung. Zur Medialität des Taktilen, (pp. 39-63). Frankfurt a. Main: Campus Verlag. Fetzner, Daniel, & Dornberg, Martin (2015). Intercorporeal Splits. Künstlerische Forschung zur Medialität von Stimme, Haut und Rhythmus. Leipzig: Open House. With articles by Jean-Luc Nancy, Klaus Theweleit, Georg Christoph Tholen and others. (accessed 05/05/2018). Fetzner, Daniel, & Dornberg, Martin (2015). BUZZ — Parasitäre Ökologien. Freiburg Retrieved from (accessed 01/05/ 2015). Fetzner, Daniel, Dornberg, Martin (2016). Partizipatives Parasitieren. Zum methodischen Potential interaktiver Webdokumentationen in der künstlerischen Forschung. In Oliver Fahle, Beate Ochsner, & Anna Wiehl. Augenblick. Konstanzer Hefte zur Medienwissenschaft, 65(66), 40-56. Marburg: Schüren Verlag. Fingerhut, Jörg et al., (2013). Philosophie der Verkörperung: Grundlage zu einer aktuellen Debatte. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Fischer-Lichte, Erika, Wulf Christoph, (2004). Praktiken des Performativen. Berlin: Akademie. Foster, Hal (1996). The return of the Real. Boston: MIT Press. Fuchs, Thomas (2009). Das Gehirn — ein Beziehungsorgan: Eine phänomenologisch-ökologische Konzeption. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

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Fuchs, Thomas & De Jaegher, Hanne (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: Participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. In: Phenomenol.Cogn.Sci., 8, 465-486. Hansen, Mark (2009). Medien des 21. Jahrhunderts. In Erich Hörl (Ed.), Die technologische Bedingung, (pp. 365-409). Berlin: Suhrkamp. Haraway, Donna (1991). A Cyborg Manifesto. London: Routledge. Hörl, Erich (2014). Tausend Ökologien. In Diedrich Diederichsen, Anselm Franke (Eds.), The Whole Earth. Kalifornien und das Verschwinden des Außen. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Johach, Eva (2011). Andere Kanäle: Insektengesellschaften und die Suche nach den Medien des Sozialen. In Marie-Luise Angerer, & Karin Harrasser (Eds.). ZfM, 4(1), 71-82. Latour, Bruno (2014). Existenzweisen. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Margulis, Lynn (2018). Der symbiotische Planet oder Wie die Evolution wirklich verlief. Frankfurt a. Main: Westend. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1966). Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung. Berlin: De Gruyter. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1986). Das Sichtbare und das Unsichtbare: Gefolgt von Arbeitsnotizen. München: Fink. Meyer, Petra M. (2008). Der Körper als Interface zwischen den Medien im Gegenwartstanz. In: Hajo Kurzenberger und Annemarie Matzke. TheorieTheaterPraxis, (pp. 286-296). Berlin: Theater der Zeit. Neumann, Birgit, & Nünning, Ansgar (2012). Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture, Frankfurt a. Main: de Gruyter. Nowotny, Helga (1993). Eigenzeit. Entstehung und Strukturierung eines Zeitgefühls. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp. Parikka, Jussi (2010). Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Rheinberger, Hans-Jörg (1997). Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube, Stanford. Stanford University Press. Schmidgen, Henning (2010). Die Helmholtz-Kurven. Auf der Spur der verlorenen Zeit. Berlin: Merve. Serres, Michel (1981/1987). Der Parasit. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp. Theweleit, Klaus (2007). Übertragung, Gegenübertragung, Dritter Körper: Zur Gehirnveränderung durch neue Medien. Köln: Flusser Lectures. Tholen, Georg Christoph (2005). Medium, Medien. In: Alexander Roesler und Bernd Stiegler (Hrsg.): Grundbegriffe der Medientheorie. (pp. 150-172). Paderborn: Fink. Von Uexküll, Jakob (1973). Theoretische Biologie. Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp. Von Uexküll, Jakob (1980). Kompositionslehre der Natur. Ausgesuchte Texte. Frankfurt a. Main: Propyläen.



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Von Weizsäcker, Victor (2005). Pathosophie. Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 10. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Waldenfels, Bernhard (2002). Bruchlinien der Erfahrung. Frankfurt a. Main: Surkamp. Weber, Jutta (2003). Umkämpfte Bedeutungen: Naturkonzepte im Zeitalter der Technoscience. Frankfurt a. Main: Campus Werber, Niels (2011). Ameisengesellschaften: Eine Faszinationsgeschichte. Frankfurt a. Main: Fischer.

The Aberrant Medial Body Visual Representations of Self-Harming Behavior on Social Network Sites Julius Erdmann

1. Deviant online disclosure Although, in public opinion, the Internet is commonly discussed as an intrinsically disembodied and immaterial media, when it comes to representing things on the Internet, the human body is a dominant category of textual and visual representation. Visualized bodies occur, for instance, on the Internet in photographs, graphics, scanned paintings, interpictorial, and collage genres like memes, and in films. Especially personal content in non-professionalized online communication, commonly refers to the presence of the human body as a visual sign on the net. The user’s own body is thus visually represented and produces another level of bodily presence: that of a medial body, which is created and staged virtually. Photographic self-portraits or selfies are parts of the everyday life of persons who aim at drawing attention to extraordinary aspects of this common life. On YouTube, for example, the individual body becomes a fake vehicle for outfit-of-the-day or shopping haul videos. The limits of the body are constantly exceeded also during challenges such as eating spicy food or setting the body on fire. Thus, one deals with a multiplicity of online visual representations of the body that use mostly the body as a means for optimized self-disclosure. Regimes of bodily representation on the Internet are located in either representations of “beautiful” bodies that follow social norms like slimness, regularity, fashion, and decoration regimes, or representations in which the body is used for competing with others and with oneself. In contrast to this symbolic optimization of the online self, another category of representation of the body focuses on the imperfect or damaged body. Images of self-harming behavior, anorexic bodies, scars, and bruises pervade forum sites, Social Network Sites, and photography or video sharing platforms. While such representations form a counter-category to successful and optimal body narratives, the double function of the body as both a medium and an object of medial representation must be considered more closely.


Julius Erdmann

In this paper, I focus on the specific category of self-harm images in order to analyze the function of the body as a narrative means for self-disclosure on Social Network Sites (SNS). I first consider the general position of visual representations of the body on the Internet in order to give a first insight into their mediality. Following ref lections on cultural and communicative dimensions of self-harming behavior, I analyze representations of self-harm on the websites Flickr and DeviantArt. I conclude with remarks about the narrative function of the hybrid self-harm representations online.

2. The Narrativity of Private Visual-Medial Bodies on the Internet Images of bodies on SNS are often perceived as substitutes for the human body. Internet based interaction by means of digital media devices like personal computers and Smartphones does not need the actual physical presence of the participants. Materiality becomes obsolete and is only needed for the manipulation of the technological device or as a reference for signs in communication processes. However, the relations between medium, sign or image, and the human body are not that simple. According to Hans Belting, images do not represent bodies; they rather turn the body’s visible absence into another kind of presence. Through mediated images, bodies obtain an “iconic presence”, a vicarious visibility (Belting, 2011, p. 126). At the same time, images depend also on the interplay between body and media. They emerge and are negotiated in the space in-between (ibid.). Media do not only materialize body images and images do not only represent bodies. Media can also communicate something via iconically presented bodies. The narrative function of body images on the internet is inf luenced by the characteristics of the Internet as a medium of preservation on the one hand, and as a communication medium on the other. It may be considered a medium of preservation in as much as it forms an archive, where body images can be stored, viewed, and retrieved. Family photography is stored online in digitalized albums, and years of Facebook use can be reviewed through uploaded photos. What follows is the possibility of constant self-ref lection through one’s own photographs and writings. On the other hand, the Internet, as a network of connected computer terminals and users, is a means for inter-individual communication, information, and self-disclosure for a quasi-mass, a virtual audience (Boyd, 2010). Both functions—the Internet as an archive of images and as a means for image communication—have an impact on the narrative character of body representations as representations of quasi-truths. The online representation shows a reference to an off line body which, and this is crucial, might or might not exist and be the body of the profile user or of a person that is relevant to the user. The

The Aberrant Medial Body

represented body therefore does not have to be real and the online images do not have to fulfill a veridic essence. The question of the truth value of a pictorial representation is—especially in times of digital photography1—not a question concerning the iconic or indexical essence of the image. Rather, the truth of images depends on the relevance and purpose they are given by their “circulation and dissemination” (Mitchell, 2007, p. 245). The communicative pragmatics of online images and their function for inter-individual interaction does not depend on a given truth, but on a narration-based collective construction of image reference. The reception of images largely depends on the meaning collectively attributed to a given medium, and therefore to the images in that medium. We may then ask how collective communication practices shape the reading of body images on Social Network Sites (SNS). SNS are generally defined by a user focused online profile, a publicly visible list of connections with other users, and the consumption of user-generated content (Ellison & Boyd, 2013). Communication on SNS focuses on two functions: the management of the identity of an online persona and the management of relations with other users2. Taken together, these functions are illustrated by the purpose to which SNS tends to be put: the disclosure of the individual self. Personal body images on SNS serve the narrativization of an online self. The narrative dimension of these images does not only consist of the image itself (a framed pictorial element that is based on an image file published online) but also of surrounding textual (comments and titles), contextual (information provided by the placement of the image in the user’s profile—for instance, whether it forms a profile photo or a random image in the user’s news feed), as well as pragmatic-historical information (its relation to existing signs on the user’s profile and to the reception history of the profile). This leads to the question of the narrative function of these images: in online visual personal narration, factual, and virtual narratives overlap. According to Klein and Martinez, factual narratives can be defined as narratives of reality; they claim to refer to real circumstances and situations (Klein & Martinez, 2009, p. 6). Factual narrative elements represent existing or supposedly existing bodies as well as active users, existing interaction, and communicative and social action. Personal body images always imply a factual dimension because they provide the

1 Werner Faulstich notes that through digitalization, the cultural conception of images has changed from a rather representational element of communication to a means of reality simulation. This new perception is an effect of medial dissemination (Faulstich, 2005). The consequence of this perspective is that images as simulations always ask for critical doubt, and hence for a social consent and negotiation of their reference to reality. 2 According to Jan Schmidt (2006), Social Media mainly serve as tools for identity management, management of social relations, and management of information.



Julius Erdmann

possible reference to a concrete body. By connecting the iconic body image with an off line body, the user establishes a reference to real circumstances. However, personal body images on SNS also refer to the virtual dimension of self-representational narratives. Within these online narratives, the body is presented as if it was the physical body of the person. This includes mechanisms of authentication, a self-narration, as well as strategies of idealization of the online persona (Erdmann, 2015). Through symbolic decoration or aestheticization of the image and symbolic enhancement of the image’s meaning, through a vivid editing of the picture and through comments on the image, the user introduces a new dimension to his or her self-narration (Astheimer, Neumann-Braun & Schmidt, 2011). In this process, factual and virtual narrations via online body images cannot be distinguished clearly anymore. They are neither separated by visual structures like image format, perspective, or components of the image, nor are they always stated by textual explanations. Both dimensions merge in a complex narrative of the user’s online persona. The negotiation between virtual self-construction and factual content is part of the reference game between the online persona and the off line identity of the user. Off line identity construction is already a result of role playing and symbolic construction of the self (Goffman, 1990; Schmidt, 2003). In the online sphere of SNS, users create an enhanced version of this identity which are fundamentally based upon visual and communicative strategies. When it comes to digital pictorial representations of self-mutilation, we therefore must consider the meaning making processes behind such virtual representations of the human body.

3. Representations of self-harming behavior Self-harming behavior is a wide pathological phenomenon which encompasses different disorders such as bruising, skin burning, hair-pulling, anorexia, and bulimia, avoidance of wound-healing, cutting, intended hitting, scratching, etc. Terms such as self-injury, self-inf licted violence, self-harm, non-suicidal self-injury, and self-mutilation are used almost synonymously. According to Nock and Favazza (2009), deliberate self-injury can be defined as “the direct, deliberate destruction of one’s own body tissue in the absence of suicidal intent” (Nock & Favazza, 2009, p. 9). My focus in this paper is on the types of self-injury most common in online body representations, that is, self-harm that causes visible marks on the body which remain visible after healing (scars). It is important to distinguish this phenomenon from suicidal forms of self-harming. The wounds inf licted on the body are not intended to lead to suicide, nor are the actors suicidal persons. Furthermore, the type of self-harming behavior evoked here is an individual, private practice rather than the result of

The Aberrant Medial Body

inter-individual acts such as deviant sexual practices (fetishism), or the collective practice of extreme sports. Psychological research on deliberate self-injury lists even possible functions of such behavioral disorders (Klonsky, 2007, p. 229): • Affect-regulation in order to appease the arousal of negative affects. • Anti-dissociation to cope with the feeling of self-dissociation and depersonalization. • Anti-suicide to avoid suicidal behavior. • Interpersonal boundaries are established via the demarcation of the person’s skin. • Interpersonal-inf luence: the behavior serves as a signal to call for help or to alarm somebody. • Self-punishment to perform feelings of anger towards oneself. • Sensation-seeking in order to create excitement and to serve as a stress-relief. Another functional dimension becomes visible when we introduce a cultural point of view on this phenomenon. The public disclosure of self-harm, mainly in popular culture media (video clips, teen magazines, and fanzines) and online social media (forums, private websites, and SNS3) has contributed to the formation of new communities and subcultures (Boyd, Ryan, & Leavitt 2010, p. 13). These cultures are “replete with common symbols, rituals, and rules for inclusion” (ibid., p. 14). If communities both on the Internet and off line make self-harming behavior public, and this promulgation is linked to inclusion and exclusion processes as well as common norms, we also have to admit that practices of self-injury have a socio-cultural dimension. Sabina Misoch takes this cultural dimension into account, when she extends the list of functions cited above by a communication function and the declaration of social and cultural affiliation to this phenomenon (Misoch, 2010, p. 4f.)). Self-injury, therefore, does not only serve as a coping behavior, or as stress, or affect regulation. The communicative function includes interpersonal inf luence and enables the demarcation of otherness and individual deviation by symbolic means. Cultural affiliation is an effect of this communicative function. Hence, self-harming behavior should be understood as pathologic coping and relief strategies on the one hand and of symbolic action on the other. What is at stake here is the cultural dimension of human skin. During self-injury practices the significant dimensions of the skin range from the feeling of pain over a deviant destruction of intact skin4, to a use of the skin as a communication medium for 3 For a more detailed insight into the history of self-injury mediatization, see Adler & Adler, 2011, p. 15ff. 4 The integrity of skin is still an ideal of western civilization, as Misoch points out (ibid., p. 5f.).



Julius Erdmann

significant inscriptions. Emotions, cognition, sociality, and culture are inscribed into the body (Chandler, 2012). Although, as Misoch (2010) highlights, self-harming behavior is often kept secret and served as a significant action to oneself, it is nowadays often published in body images on SNS and accessible to a large public. In order to clarify the emergence of this phenomenon, I now turn to some dimensions of the body in online representations of self-injury.

4. Representation of self-harm in online body images My analysis of the role of the body in online representations of self-harm is based on a data collection of 284 visual expressions of self-injury from users on image-sharing SNS like DeviantArt5 and Flickr6. On these SNS, users share images that are explicitly labeled as art. DeviantArt is presented as an artists’ online community where users can publish photography, graphics, paintings, or sketches. Flickr focuses only on photography ; users are encouraged also to publish information about the camera model and adjustments. Interestingly, both networks are commonly used to publish images of injured bodies as a pictorial representation of the user’s self-harming behavior. In both SNS, images are tagged with keywords and are accompanied by titles and different forms of text (descriptions, explanations, annotations). For my collection of data, I used these annotations as indicators in order to retrieve visual representations of self-harm which either depict fresh wounds caused by scars as traces of self-injury (mostly cutting), or which contribute to the narration of the online self. The construction of the online self can mainly be inferred from denominators such as “my scars”, “me”, etc. It is therefore not important whether specific images really depict the body and wounds of the users who claim them, or whether this (self-) attribution is fake. The virtual and visual narration of self-harm is based on a factional narrative: Fictional elements, such as wounds which are actually not inf licted upon the user’s body, may be part of this online representation of the body. The focus of my research is on the construction and the emergence rather than the reliability of self-narration via representations of self-injury.

4.1 From a Practice of embodiment to an online visual symbolic action The visualization and publication of self-injuring practices allows us to detach the representational dimension of body inscriptions from their physical act of injury. The action of visualization of self-harm marks the transition of a performed body 5 Retrieved from 6 Retrieved from

The Aberrant Medial Body

image in corpore to a second, visual embodiment within the medial sphere of the internet, a body image in effigy (Belting, 2011). The deviant body action is displaced from the initial support of embodiment—the body—to a medial body. Thus embodiment becomes medially enacted (Lupton, 2016). Medial enactment of embodiment practices creates a distance between the self and his or her body image. This distance establishes a process of self-affirmation and identification with the corporeal practice of self-harm. The body picture thus becomes a representational trace of the performed action, and the individual develops a second representational skin in the media. While physical scars on the body are only a historical, inalterable trace that documents a bodily action, the picture is subject to further change, alteration, and optimization. Moreover, once the image is published online on a SNS, the meaning of the self-harm depicted is further defined by titles, image descriptions and collective negotiation via comments. This techno-semiotic dimension of the picture (Erdmann, 2015) adds another layer of meaning to the self-harm picture: the picture is uploaded to a user profile and situated next to other pictures and signs. When we consider the dimensions of narrations about self-harm in body pictures online, therefore, we must also take into account the interrelations between the pictorial, the textual, and the contextual layers of the picture.

4.2 Aesthetics of online self-harm images and medialization of the body Boyd et al. (2010) show that for pro-bulimia online subcultures a common ritual of the authentication and embodiment of personal suffering is the publication of body photographs and videos. Users develop in these images and videos stylistic patterns of visual narration in order to show the user’s suffering7. A basic stylistic criterion seems to be the representation of the body parts— among the most commonly depicted body parts are arms, thighs, or hands. Interestingly, the user’s face as an integral part of his or her body was only shown in three of the pictures analyzed for this study. In general, we find close-up shots of the body parts in question taken with the camera held in front of the upper body. Thus, the subject’s arm, hand, or leg are shown stretched out as an extension of the body, which visually foregrounds the presence and importance of skin. The act of self-harm, mostly cutting, is always represented through the traces it leaves on the body: f lesh wounds or scars. Fresh f lesh wounds are typically represented with blood or red skin. Only in two of the analyzed cases were direct traces of 7 Amy Shields Dobson (2015) highlights these common aesthetics in online narrations analyzing young girl’s online narrations about bullying experience: The girls develop common aesthetics of how to tell their life story in YouTube videos, e.g. featuring emotional soundtracks, hand-written white paper cards, black and white video aesthetics.



Julius Erdmann

self-inf licted injury replaced by paper cards or a text directly written on the skin, telling about invisible scars or biography. The aim of such representations is to show the traces of self-inf licted injury inscribed into the body. Parts of the body and the camera are held in a position that favors the visibility of the injuries. Hence, the representation of self-harm is not only a part of a general visual representation of the self—it is in the actual center of bodily representation. The injury of the physical body is hence further inscribed into the medial body of the user. This double structure of the physical and virtual representation of self-harm is enhanced with aesthetic strategies of picture editing. Those techno-semiotic strategies include editing the perspective, colors or focus of the image, but also the insertion of textual comments on the photographic image (see figure 1). Figure 1

Through such strategies of editing, a second layer is added to the picture as the initial representation of self-harm is aesthetically transformed and enhanced with texts within the image. The visualization of self-harm and its aesthetic editing constitutes a negotiation of meaning about the sense of representing such a deviant corporeal practice.

The Aberrant Medial Body

4.3 Medial aestheticization of deviant corporeal practices A closer analysis of figure 2 illustrates that most online pictorial representations of self-inf licted injury are primarily aestheticizations of the initial physical act of harming. Figure 2

While cutting and bruising may have an aesthetic dimension as a form of drawing or writing into one’s own skin, the distance to the act produced by mediatization uncovers a symbolic visual layer. In their photographs, users tend to depreciate the initial act of self-harm by using it as an iconic element of their online self-representation. Although the bruises and wounds are highly visible, their presentation does not clearly refer to pain and suffering but more to a biographical feature of the user’s (online) identity. Franzén and Gottzén (2011) showed in their analysis of representations of self-injury in a Swedish Internet Community that two dominant discourses about self-injurious behavior exist alongside each other: on the one hand, members tend



Julius Erdmann

to regard self-injury through a normalizing perspective which legitimizes their behavior as a beautiful and strengthening practice. On the other hand, they explain it as a pathological, condemnable behavior for which one must apologize. The authors show that both discourses co-exist in online representations of selfharm. Members use these discursive strategies in order to stage the “authenticity of cutting”. Figure 2 shows a bright, sunny photograph of the forearm—a perspective which makes scars of self-harm appear trivial. These visual elements, alongside the typography and the white background of the included text, create a normalizing narrative concerning self-harm. The original scars are connected to an aestheticised mise en scène. However, textual content (“Don’t Waste Your Time.”), as well as comments about the picture emphasize the pathologizing of her behavior: “As for me, I haven’t self-injured for about nine months now.’ Don’t plan to ever again.)” The aestheticization of the human body as visual material plays an important role on both sides of the visual discourse, namely normalization, and pathologization of self-injurious behavior. The body becomes an endogenous access to the psychic condition of the user, while its visual representation serves as a base for the negotiation of the user’s psyche. This becomes even more evident when we analyze representations which seek to legitimize self-harm as a beautiful modification of the body. Figure 3

In figure 3, the pinkish color of healing cuts and scars establishes a connection with the beautiful photo of a pink rose. The visual metaphoric relation between the f lower and the healing cuts conveys the beauty of the wounds. It dissociates the initial injury from its somatic and psychic consequences in order to establish

The Aberrant Medial Body

a purely aesthetic dimension. Self-harm becomes a part of the normal life-cycle, although the injuries shown in the photo are deep and seem to require medical treatment. In this example, both discursive levels—pathologization and normalization of self-harming behavior—are clearly constituted by the use of a virtual representation of the physical body which has been altered through photo editing and through the addition of another visual, metaphorical layer. Through these elements of visual enhancement, the body becomes the site for the staging of a virtual self. The user creates a medial body—an online avatar which is used to re-negotiate and explain self-injurious behavior.

4.4 Medialization and self-explanation. Body representations as narrative instruments The visual-medial representation is a means for the negotiation of the very individual dimensions of physical bodies (shapes, surfaces, practices, etc.) and the representation of self. Through processes of normalization and pathologization, the representation of self-harm does not only serve the construction of an authentic “cutter” persona, as Franzén and Gottzén (2011) suggest. Whitlock, Powers, and Eckenrode (2006) showed that online discourse about self-harm also includes information about individual motivation, description of practices, the perception of self and pop cultural references, as well as narrations about addictive behavior. Comments and titles related to the visual representation bear witness to the significance of self-inf licted harm for the individual’s life. Titles like “gifts from my wrist”, “trying to love myself”, “vestiges of the past”, “an incurable sickness”, and “forgive me” contextualize the medial representation of the harmful act within everyday emotion, the search for identity and the personal life story. The descriptions and comments offer further explanation of these individual acts. As we can see in “Don’t waste your time” (figure 2), the picture is used to affirm authenticity and to document the steps in the user’s progress towards a life without cutting: This is my arm, so please don’t go stealing it. That goes especially for little twelveyear-olds who […] like taking shit and putting it on their myspaces, most of the time with writing from the paint-program saying things like ‘THIS IS HOW I FEEL INSIDE’ or ‘THIS IS WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME’ […] As for me, I haven’t self-injured for about nine months now. Don’t plan to ever again.) EDIT 04/27/11: Will be two years in next month!DEDIT 12/02/11: Over two and a half, now.D8

8 (accessed December 15, 2015).



Julius Erdmann

While these discourses of authentication and self-narration are typical for SNS, it is still a curious fact that visual representations of users’ injured bodies are used for this purpose. Misoch (2010) argues that when it is part of a pathological physical action, self-harm is normally not shown to strangers or revealed in public. The once hidden wounds and scars are now revealed in the pseudo-anonymous space of the Internet. This suggests that online visual representation of self-harm is a strategic act of communicative action on SNSs. Showing the injured body in online SNS produces a narrative gap which calls for explanations and for narrative connections to the represented online persona. The narrative dimension of this dramatic and aestheticized visuality of the body recalls Mitchell’s and Snyders’ (2001) concept of “narrative prosthesis”. The term “narrative prosthesis” refers to the pervasive use of disability narratives in literature. Mitchell and Snyders show that the characterization of a protagonist as disabled serves an essential narrative function in novels—it creates narrative tension: Narrative prosthesis […] forwards the notion that all narratives operate out of a desire to compensate for a limitation or to reign in excess. This narrative approach to difference identifies the literary object par excellence as that which had become extraordinary—a deviation from a widely accepted norm. […] In this sense, stories compensate for an unknown or unnatural deviance that begs an explanation. (ibid., p. 53) Once the deviance from socially fixed body norms has been attributed to a character, explanation and subsequently resolution or correction are further needed. The physical exceptionality of the subject justifies the plot of the story and serves as a metaphorical “tangible body to textual abstractions” (ibid., p. 54). Although the visual representation of self-harm does not use the general characteristics of “narrative prostheses” in literature—descriptions of crippled persons as deviances from social body norms—, it makes use of the same narrative function. What one may call the aberrant body, marked by signs of deviant physical practice, becomes a visual-narrative instrument. Deviance is at the center of these body images and thus the main focus of self-staging and explanation. The user performs the practice of self-harm as part of a dramaturgical online action. The narrative structure of such online representations uses an interplay of factual and virtual content. The visual narrative claims to be factual but uses virtual elements in order to enhance the dramatic aspect of self-disclosure.

The Aberrant Medial Body

Figure 4

Figure 4 ref lects the deviance of physical self-harm by putting a focus on the red color of blood dripping from the forearm. The dramatic character of the visual representation is increased by the textual description which emphasizes the importance of authentic self-disclosure: and we’re here again... it’s been a long time hasn’t it? i thought id be uploading only photos of flowers and trees and sunsets now. but that […] feeling of total agony came over me again for once in years, when there is multiple problems that i cant face and everything is out of control.9 The user reproduces dramatic images of his or her injured body to call for attention—attention for further explanations and narratives about his life story. But contrary to the disabled body as “narrative prosthesis”, these deviant body representations do not belong to fictional characters in a novel written by somebody else. In the case of the examples analyzed here, representation is a matter of self-narration. The deviant subjects show their bodies as part of their online persona. The disabled body does not serve purposes of initiation and maintenance for the narrative plot but creates a situational tension through shocking images. The tension between the shocking image and the online identity is solved when textual elements and the embedding of the image into a general user profile, as well as other visual sources become obvious. The narrative tension is transformed into a direct self-narration. By using self-injurious behavior as an element of the ordinary construction of a virtual self, this kind of deviant behavior becomes normalized.

9 Retrieved from



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4.5 Deviant online technologies of the self The data I have collected, therefore, suggest that in the case of self-harm pictures on SNSs and some subcultural collectives, the representation of shocking and harmful body practices becomes a common option in the register of online self-disclosure. The range of visual online self-disclosure is broad, and pictures of self-harm are found on the edges of this register. Bodies are distorted, skin is damaged, f luids are visible, details of forearms or thighs become the most important parts of a user’s bodily representation, while their faces remain mostly hidden. We, therefore, have to treat this phenomenon as a specific category of online self-representation which we might call the aberrant medial body. As a visual “medial technology of self” (Butler, 2007), pictures of self-harming behavior have two purposes: while the online and off line self is formed and constituted through visual representation, the representation can be seen as a performative act of staging, allowing users to ref lect on their physical norms and bodily limits. During the representation of the injured physical body, a medial body is produced and communicated as socially aberrant. This medialization of the person’s body permits to negotiate social norms and, simultaneously, to ref lect the relation between these social norms and the personal self. The aberrant, subjective medial body, therefore, can become object for self-awareness. Online images of self-harm may therefore also serve as means of subjective biographies: photographic pictures preserve the historical traces of temporary acts of self-harm (figure 5). Figure 5

In this picture, an injured forearm is presented as part of an individual’s life story. The self-inf licted wounds are constitutional parts of the formation of an identity between the online presentation on the SNS and the off line reference to the supposedly existing physical body spheres. The picture is one among many others

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constituting the individuality of the user. This staging of deviance as a normal dimension of the individual life-world can also be seen as a reaction to dominant visual body standards online. In this case, the medial body is not primarily object of a digital improvement in its recombination of body parts to cope with socially determined standards. Posing, editing, and recontextualization are general patterns for designing a medial body that fits into aesthetical and social criteria on the web (Becker & Weber, 2006). However, regarding the aberrant medial body, the destruction of the body as a symbolic act forms the focus of visual representation. The symbolic act stresses the emotional, deviant, and diverging potential of body representations. In addition, the staging of visual aberrance also permits the creation of a distance to one’s own behavior. The aberrant body as narrative instrument is also oriented towards oneself, as seen from the following user’s comments on his photography (figure 5): It’s hard to explain... but I feel sick looking at this. The sickness is some sort of sadness, some sort of desperation. I want to tell the old me to stop it. Stop it, cause you don’t know how addicted you’ll get, you don’t know how depressed you’ll become. That in only three months you’ll be inpatient (sic!), and that that’s when hell begins. Thus, the aberrant medial body turns from a narrative instrument signaling otherness to an instrument indicating identity. Such deviant narratives of identity are simultaneously directed towards other users and towards oneself, between pathologizing and normalizing the person’s behavior. This kind of narration plays with factual narrative elements and virtual representation in order to create individual singularity. The representation of self-injurious behavior becomes an instrument for the individualization of the user’s online identity.

5. Conclusion Photographs depicting self-inf licted injury online cannot be reduced to a mere representational function. Instead of merely representing a physical body, the medial bodies discussed in this paper are also stigmatized by the presence of off line scars and wounds. Thus, the transformed and injured medial body is shown to have different dimensions: it functions as a support for medial inscriptions that ref lect off line behavior and, at the same time, as a narrative means for the construction of identity. The physical action of self-harm is then re-enacted within the medial body. Hence, the body is a support and anchor for medial self-narration, and, at the same time, an element of the user’s narrations. Physical practices of embodiment



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are materialized, traced, condensed, and visualized. The enactment and objectification of physical self-harm results in a strategic use of these visual representations. First of all, the connection of deviant medial bodies to the user’s profile authenticates and legitimizes behavior. Furthermore, virtual narrative elements in the online picture and its context are an important part of narrative strategies, serving as narrative medial coping strategies for dealing with physical aberrant behavior. Ornamenting and visual editing of online representation support the normalization of self-harming. The user also emphasizes stylistic features in order to romanticize patterns of deviant behavior and revalue individual motivations. He or she becomes virtually part of an online community of self-harmers by using dominant stylistic patterns and norms for visualizing self-inf licted wounding. We, therefore, need to stress the (sub)cultural dynamics which shape the staging of harmed bodies on the Internet. Through such practices, a specific Internet subculture emerges, providing stable rules, aesthetics, and patterns of signification for this form of bodily representation. In this sense, medial bodies and medial technologies of the self can be dissociated from physical performance. The Internet serves as a medial “semiosphere” (Lotman 1990, p. 287), a continuum that provides open signifiers and codes of signification for discursive appropriation. The deviant medial body as a narrative prosthesis combines images of harmed bodies with narratives about deviant identities. Both elements—the visual signifier and the offered signification– are not directly related to an original physical act of self-harming. As an established element of online narration, the visualization of self-harm on the Internet is also a (physically) disembodied genre of narration.

References Adler, Patricia A., & Adler, Peter (2011). The tender cut: Inside the hidden world of self-injury. New York: University Press. Astheimer, Jörg, Neumann-Braun, Klaus, & Schmidt, Axel (2011). MyFace: Die Porträtfotografie im Social Web. In Klaus Neumann-Braun, & Ulla Patricia Autenrieth (Eds.), Freundschaft und Gemeinschaft im Social Web. Bildbezogenes Handeln und Peergroup-Kommunikation auf Facebook & Co (pp. 79-122). BadenBaden: Nomos. Becker Barbara, & Weber Jutta (2006). Digital Beauties. Mediale Identitäts- und Körperinszenierungen. In Simone Ehm, & Silke Schicktanz (Eds.), Körper als Maß? Biomedizinische Eingriffe und ihre Auswirkungen auf Körper- und Identitätsverständnisse (pp. 169-180). Stuttgart: Hirzel. Belting, Hans (2011). An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body. Princeton; Oxford: University Press.

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Boyd, Danah M. (2010). Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, andImplications. In Zizi Papacharissi (Ed.), Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (pp. 39-58). London; New York: Routledge. Boyd, Danah M., Ryan, Jenny, & Leavitt, Alex (2010). Pro-self-harm and the visibility of youth-generated problematic content. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, 7(1), 1-32. Butler, Mark (2007). Das Spiel mit sich. Populäre Techniken des Selbst. In Eva Kimminich et al. (Eds.), Express Yourself! Europas kulturelle Kreativität zwischen Markt und Underground (pp. 75-101). Bielefeld: transcript. Chandler, Amy (2012). Self-injury as embodied emotion work: Managing rationality, emotions and bodies. Sociology, 46 (3), 442–457. Ellison, Nicole B., Boyd, Danah M. (2013). Sociality through Social Network Sites. In William H. Dutton (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies (pp. 151-172). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Erdmann, Julius (2015). Semiotics of Pictorial Signs on Social Networking Sites: Remarks on a Neglected Field of Study. Punctum, 1(1), 26-42. Retrieved from: (accessed 01/12/2015). Faulstich, Werner (2005). Die Entfaltung der Bildkultur in den Medien des 20. Jahrhunderts. From Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Dossier Bilder in Geschichte und Politik. Retrieved from: /bilder-in-geschichte-und-politik/ (accessed 15/12/2015). Franzén, Anna G., & Gottzén, Lucas (2011). The beauty of blood? Self-injury and ambivalence in an Internet community. Journal of Youth Studies, 14(3), 279-294. Klein, Christian, & Martínez, Matías (2009). Wirklichkeitserzählungen. Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens. In Christian Klein, & Matías Martínez (Eds.), Wirklichkeitserzählungen: Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens (pp. 1-13). Stuttgart: Metzler. Klonsky, David E. (2007). The functions of deliberate self-injury: A review of the evidence. Clinical psychology review, 27(2), 226-239. Lotman, Yuri Mikhailovich (1990). Universe of the mind: A semiotic theory of culture. London; New York: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd. Lupton, Debroah (2016). Digital Bodies. In David L. Andrews, Michael L. Silk, & Holly Thorpe (Eds.), Handbook of Physical Cultural Studies. London: Routledge. Misoch, Sabina (2010). Bildkommunikation selbstverletzenden Verhaltens (SVV) im virtuellen Raum: Eine exemplarische Analyse des präsentierten Bildmaterials auf YouTube, social network sites und privaten Homepages. In kommunikation @ gesellschaft 11, 1-25. Mitchell, David T., & Snyder, Sharon L. (2001). Narrative Prosthesis. Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Michigan: University Press.



Julius Erdmann

Mitchell, William J. T. (2007). Realismus im digitalen Bild. In Hans Belting (Ed.), Bilderfragen. Die Bildwissenschaften im Auf bruch (pp. 237-256). München: Fink. Nock, Matthew K. (2009). Non-suicidal self-injury: Definition and classification. In Matthew K. Nock (Ed.), Understanding non-suicidal self-injury: Origins, assessment, and treatment (pp. 9-18). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Schmidt, Jan-Hinrik (2006). Weblogs: Eine kommunikationssoziologische Studie. Konstanz: UVK. Shields Dobson, Amy (2015). Girls’ ‘pain memes’ on YouTube: The production of pain and femininity in a digital network. In Sarah Baker, Brady Robards, & Bob Buttigieg (Eds.), Youth Cultures and Subcultures: Australian Perspectives (pp. 173-182). Farnham: Ashgate. Whitlock, Janis L., Powers, Jane L., & Eckenrode, John (2006). The Virtual Cutting Edge: The Internet and Adolescent Self-Injury. Developmental Psychology, 42 (3), 407-17.

List of figures Figure 1: “Depression” by user xlolipopxloverx, Retrieved from http://xlolipopx (accessed 15/12/2015). Figure 2: “Don’t waste your time” by user fangiechan, Retrieved from http:// (accessed 15/12/2015). Figure 3: “Untitled” by user 30dagarmedanalhus, Retrieved from https://www. f (accessed 15/12/2015). Figure 4: “Gifts from my wrist” by user 30dagarmedanalhus, Retrieved from https://www.f (accessed 15/12/2015). Figure 5: “4 years ago” by user Ariellr, Retrieved from https://www.f tos/49824397@N03/15171331248 (accessed 15/12/2015).

List of Authors

Denisa Butnaru is a sociologist, and a project investigator (DFG funded project “Deviant Bodies. Extended Bodies”) at University of Konstanz, Chair of General and Cultural Sociology, Prof. Dr. Christian Meyer, where she also works on a habilitation project. She holds a doctor title in sociology from Université de Strasbourg earned in 2009. She worked at Université Marc Bloch Strasbourg 2 (at present Université de Strasbourg) and at Université Nancy 2 (at present Université de Lorraine) as a teaching assistant and a senior lecturer in sociology and sports science (2005-2010), at University of Augsburg (2012-2013) and at University of Freiburg (2014-2016) in the Research Training Group “Factual and Fictional Narration” (GRK 1767). Her research interests are theories of subject and subjectivity in phenomenology, phenomenology of the body and disability, sociology of the body, science and technology studies, disability studies and qualitative methodology in social sciences. Marco Caracciolo is Associate Professor of English and Literary Theory at Ghent University in Belgium, where he leads the ERC Starting Grant project “Narrating the Mesh.” Currently, his work explores narrative strategies for figuring humanity’s entanglement in a more-than-human world. He is the author of three books, including most recently Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers’ Engagement with Characters (University of Nebraska Press, 2016). Luna Dolezal is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Exeter. Her research is primarily in the areas of applied phenomenology, philosophy of embodiment, philosophy of medicine and medical humanities. Luna’s publications include the monograph The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body (Lexington Books, 2015), and the co-edited books  Body/Self/Other: The Phenomenology of Social Encounters  (SUNY Press, 2017) and New Feminist Perspectives on Embodiment (Palgrave, 2018). Martin Dornberg (*1959) is a German philosopher and researcher/medical practitioner in the field of psychosomatics and psychotherapy. He studied philosophy and medicine at the Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg/Breisgau (Germany)


Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction: Reinventing Corporeality

and has doctorates in both disciplines. Since 1989 he is Lecturer of the Philosophy Department of the Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg/Breisgau and of the Centre of Anthropology and gender Studies (ZAG) of this university. Since 1998 he is the director of the “Centre of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy” at St. Josefs Hospital, Freiburg/Breisgau and of the Consultation-Service for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy of the St. Josefs- and the Loretto-Hospitals at Freiburg/ Breisgau. Julius Erdmann holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from the University of Potsdam and the University of Paris 8. In his thesis, he analyzed the socio-semiotic dimension of pictorial signs on Facebook during the Tunisian Revolution. Erdmann holds a Bachelor’s degree in Romance Studies, Media Studies, and Psychology, and a Master’s degree in Philosophy. His research focuses on the semiotics of culture, the philosophy of culture, new media, and subcultural identity. Erdmann is member of the advisory board of the German Society of Semiotics and leader of the International Research Network on New Media and Cultural Diversity (CultMedia). Daniel Fetzner is a media artist and scientist. He is currently Professor for Design and Artistic Research at Hochschule Offenburg and head of the Media Ecology Lab. From 2002-2014 he was a Professor for Media Design at Furtwangen University, in 2012 a visiting Professor at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore. Between 2009-2011 he was a professor at the German University Cairo as Head of the Media Design Department. In 2007 he was a visiting professor at San Francisco State University and guest artist at ZKM Karlsruhe. Since 2015 he has been a senior lecturer at Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg. In 2002 he was a research assistant at CeTIM, Munich/Rotterdam and reviewer of various EU projects. Between 1998-2001 he was a creative director at echtzeit AG, Berlin. From 1997 to 1998 he worked as a producer at America Online, Hamburg and from 1994 to 1996 he was assistant at the Institute for Architecture and Design of the University of the Arts, Berlin. Valentine Gourinat holds a joint PhD in Information and Communication Sciences (University of Strasbourg, 2018) and in Life Science (University of Lausanne, 2018). She is an associate researcher at UMR7367 Dynamiques Européennes (University of Strasbourg), and a post-doctoral fellow at S2HEP (University Claude Bernard Lyon 1). Her work focuses on collective representations and discourses around amputation and prosthetic devices, as well as on the uses, practices and care experiences of amputees fitted with prosthetic devices.

List of Authors

Dr. Gero Guttzeit is assistant professor of English Literature (Akademischer Rat auf Zeit) at LMU Munich. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh and JLU Giessen, where he also received his doctoral degree in 2014. He specializes in transatlantic literatures and rhetorical cultures since 1800. His first book The Figures of Edgar Allan Poe: Authorship, Antebellum Literature, and Transatlantic Rhetoric was published by DeGruyter in 2017. Other research interests include the cultural history of invisibility, monster studies, and genre fiction across media. His work has appeared in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Anglistik, the Journal for the Study of British Cultures, and elsewhere. Matthias Hausmann is currently Substitute Professor for French and Spanish Literature at the University of Cologne. After his doctoral thesis at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg, which dealt with 19th century French utopian literature (2008), he wrote a habilitation thesis on the inf luence of cinema in the narrative works of Adolfo Bioy Casares (at the University of Vienna, 2017). His current research interests focus on narratology, fantastic literature, intermediality, and the grotesque in French, Spanish and Latin American literature and film. His publications include Die Ausbildung der Anti-Utopie im Frankreich des 19. Jahrhunderts (Heidelberg 2009), ErzählMacht: Narrative Politiken des Imaginären (Würzburg 2013, co-edited with Kurt Hahn and Christian Wehr), Das Groteske in der Literatur Spaniens und Lateinamerikas (Göttingen 2016, co-edited with Jörg Türschmann) and La literatura argentina y el cine – El cine argentino y la literatura (Madrid 2019, co-edited with Jörg Türschmann). Ursula Kluwick is Senior Lecturer in Modern English Literature at the University of Bern, and author of Exploring Magic Realism in Salman Rushdie’s Fiction (Routledge 2011). Her research focuses on twentieth- and nineteenth-century Anglophone literature, the environmental humanities and representation of water and the beach. She has co-edited a collection on littoral space, The Beach in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures (with Virginia Richter, Ashgate 2015), and an interdisciplinary handbook on sustainability, Nachhaltigkeit interdiszipliär: Konzepte, Diskurse, Praktiken (with Evi Zemanek, UTB 2019), and is currently preparing her habilitation thesis on Liquid Ecologies for publication. Her new project deals with representations of the Mediterranean. Stefan Kristensen holds a PhD in philosophy since 2007 on the question of the relation between perception and language in the phenomenological tradition (Husserl, Gurwitsch, Merleau-Ponty), and a habilitation since 2016 on the concept of the machine in contemporary aesthetics and ontology. From September 2019, he is professor for aesthetics and art theory at the University of Strasbourg. Among his publications, Parole et subjectivité (Olms, 2010), Jean-Luc Godard Philosophe



Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction: Reinventing Corporeality

(L’Âge d’Homme, 2014), La machine sensible (Hermann, 2017), as well as several articles and book chapters on issues in outsider art, phenomenological aesthetics, film theory, and psychoanalytical theories. Stephan Packard is Professor for Popular Culture and Its Theories at Cologne University. Research interests include semiotics, comics studies, censorship and other forms of media control, transmediality, narratology, as well as concepts of fiction and virtuality. He is President of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor) and co-editor of the journal Medienobservationen. – Anatomie des Comics. Psychosemiotische Medienanalyse (Göttingen 2006); Abschied von 9/11 (ed. with Hennigfeld, Berlin 2013); Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political (Berlin 2013, ed. with Esch-van Kan/Schulte); Comics & Politics (Berlin 2014, ed.); Charlie Hebdo: Nicht nur am 7. Januar 2015! (2018, ed. with Wilde); Comicanalyse. Eine Einführung (2019, with Rauscher, Sina, Thon, Wilde, Wildfeuer). Bianca Westermann is a media scholar. Her research interests are centered on mobile media, social robotics and the medial constitution of prostheses, robots and cyborgs as well as the body as a medium. Other areas of interest include the medial construction of postmodern identity in digital media as well as sound studies.

Cultural Studies Elisa Ganivet

Border Wall Aesthetics Artworks in Border Spaces 2019, 250 p., hardcover, ill. 79,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-4777-8 E-Book: 79,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-4777-2

Jocelyne Porcher, Jean Estebanez (eds.)

Animal Labor A New Perspective on Human-Animal Relations 2019, 182 p., hardcover 99,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-4364-0 E-Book: 99,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-4364-4

Andreas Sudmann (ed.)

The Democratization of Artificial Intelligence Net Politics in the Era of Learning Algorithms 2019, 334 p., pb., col. ill. 49,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-4719-8 E-Book: 49,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-4719-2

All print, e-book and open access versions of the titles in our list are available in our online shop!

Cultural Studies Burcu Dogramaci, Kerstin Pinther (eds.)

Design Dispersed Forms of Migration and Flight 2019, 274 p., pb., col. ill. 34,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-4705-1 E-Book: 34,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-4705-5

Pál Kelemen, Nicolas Pethes (eds.)

Philology in the Making Analog/Digital Cultures of Scholarly Writing and Reading 2019, 316 p., pb., ill. 34,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-4770-9 E-Book: 34,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-4770-3

Chris Goldie, Darcy White (eds.)

Northern Light Landscape, Photography and Evocations of the North 2018, 174 p., hardcover, ill. 79,99 € (DE), 978-3-8376-3975-9 E-Book: 79,99 € (DE), ISBN 978-3-8394-3975-3

All print, e-book and open access versions of the titles in our list are available in our online shop!