Technology, Literature, and the Body 

(Panel / In-Person)

Special Session
Ecocriticism and Science / Theory

Harrison Dietzman (University of California - Davis)
hdie@****.com (Log-in to reveal)

This panel features papers examining aspects of literary treatments of the human body in relationship to technology—especially medical and commercial—past and present. In particular, the panel investigates literary interrogations of the means by which technology mediates the subject of the body into the public-sphere.

Before his untimely death, British theologian John Hughes identified contemporary capitalism’s “deconstructive logic of absolute utility [that] turns upon the dominating rational subject itself,” and the endgame of which is “nothing but violent self-interest and nihilism.” Martin Heidegger famously defined technology as “a human activity” that is “a means to an end,” but that also always “threatens to slip from human control.”

With this in mind, what is the relationship between technology’s and capitalism’s mutual logics of absolute utility? And what does literature have to say about a world where bodies—and human selves—are increasingly mediated via ever-more alienating proprietary technologies into the world writ-large as well as into relationship with specific, individual others? What possibilities for human agency and freedom can literature help to explore and articulate? How might literature provide a vocabulary or a methodology for living with and alongside technology?

Papers focusing on these or related questions from any literary or historical era are welcome.