«The Future of Humans in a Post-Human World»: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
Frankissstein: A Love Story, Jeanette Winterson's 2019 novel, is a mirror transposition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The novel adumbrates a posthuman or transhuman life to be lived “forever as brain emulation” (Winterson 2020, 104). What was traditionally known as the human being is now required to transcend biology through “better biology” (ibid. 113), i.e., Artificial Intelligence. Assuming that homo sapiens is not a special case, an ontology that transcends the human/nonhuman divide is proposed in Winterson’s story by scientist Victor Stein. He assumes that we can develop our brain software through learning, including outsourcing to machines, until we learn to share the planet with “non biological forms created by us” (ibid. 73). This delineates a utopian dimension in which the relationship between self, other and power is reworked so that as, in Donna Haraway’s words, there is “agency ...without defended subjects” (Haraway 1991, 3). Or, in other words, a world in which the cyborgification (the fusion of nature and culture/technology) is seen as inevitable and there is no need to ‘defend’ nature. With further lines of thought, my paper explores the metaphorical fields (parallel worlds, simulacra) and narrative devices (metalepsis, alternating montage, internal parallelism) that underpin this story. My point is that the attempted fusion of nature and technology, as theorised by techno-scientists in Winterson’s story, only produces a modification in the attitude of some unaugmented humans towards other unaugmented humans, both living and dead. Eventually humans are not cyborgs, nor inforgs, nor full-blown transhumans but boundary creatures straddling alternative ontologies and often acting as less than humans, infrahumans or, like transexual Ry Shelley, “inappropriate others” (Haraway 1992).
Atwood, Margaret, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, New York, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2011.
Baelo-Allué, Sonia - Calvo-Pascual, Monica, “Trans/Post Humanity and Representation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Anthropocene: An Introduction”, in Transhumanism and Posthumanism in Twenty-First Century Narrative, Eds. Sonia Baelo-Allué and Mónica Calvo-Pascual, London, Routledge, 2021: 1-19.
Baudrillard, Jean, Simulacres et Simulation, Paris, Galilée, 1981, Engl. transl. by Sheila Glaser, Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor MI, The Arbor University Michigan Press, 2006.
Bottiroli, Giovanni, “Heart of Darkness e la teoria lacaniana dei registri”, Anglistica Pisana, 14, 1-2 (2017): 13-26.
Derrida, Jacques, Voyous: deux essais sur la raison (2003), Engl. transl. by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 2005.
Donawerth, Jane, Frankenstein’s Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction, Syracuse NY, Syracuse University Press, 1997.
Foucault, Michel, Les mots et les choses: Une archéologie des Sciences Humaines, Paris, Gallimard (1966), Engl. transl. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences, London & New York, Routledge, 2002.
Genette, Gérard, Seuils, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1987, English transl. by Jane E. Lewin, Paratext: Thresholds of Interpretation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Grantham, Michael, The Transhuman Anti-Hero: Paradoxical Protagonists of Speculative Fiction from Mary Shelley to Richard Morgan, Jefferson NC, McFarland & Co., 2015.
Haraway, Donna, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York, Routledge, 1991.
Ead., “The Promises of Monsters: Reproductive Politics for Inappropriate/d Others”, in Larry Grossberg - Cary Nelson - Paula Treichler (eds), Cultural Studies, New York, Routledge, 1992: 295-337.
Heidegger, Martin, “Bauen, Wohnen, Denken” (1951), in Id., Vorträge und Aufsätze II, Pfullingen, Neske, 1967: 19-36, Engl. transl. by Martin Hofstadter, “Building Dwelling Thinking”, in Id., Poetry, Language, Thought, New York, Harper & Row, 1971: 143-162.
Id., Gesamtausgabe Band 95, Überlegungen VII-XI (Schwarze Hefte 1938/39), Frankfurt Am Main, Vittorio Klosterman, 2014, Engl. transl. by Richard Rojcewicz, Ponderings VII-XI: Black Notes 1938-1939, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2017.
Jakobson, Roman, “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics”, in Style in Language, Ed. Thomas A. Sebeok, Cambridge MA, The M.I.T. Press, 1964: 350-377.
Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2005.
Lee, Newton, “Brave New World of Transhumanism”, in Id. (ed.), The Transhumanism Handbook, Cham, Springer, 2019: 1-48.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The Primacy of Perception, And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics, ed. James M. Edie, Evanston IL., Northwestern University Press, 1964 .
More, Max, “Principles of Extropy”, 2003, https://web.archive.org/web/20131015142449/http://extropy.org/principles.htm
Moretti, Franco, The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature, London & New York, Verso, 2013.
Onega, Susana, Jeanette Winterson, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2006.
Rine, Abigail, “Jeanette Winterson’s Love Intervention: Rethinking the Future”, in Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture, Eds. Ben Davies - Jana Funke, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011: 70-85.
Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1985.
Watkins, Susan, Contemporary Women’s Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
Winterson, Jeanette, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, New York, Grove Press, 2011. Kindle edition.
Ead., Frankissstein: A Love Story, London, Vintage, (2019) 2020.
Ead., 12 Bytes: How We got Here. Where We Might Go Next, London, Vintage, 2021. Kindle edition.
Copyright (c) 2022 Fausto Ciompi
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to adapt the work. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).