Research Article


DOI :10.26650/sdsl2020-0011   IUP :10.26650/sdsl2020-0011    Full Text (PDF)

Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism

Şebnem Sunar

Machines, robots and androids in the cultural production of the West are not often the products of high technology, which is directly associated with the posthumanist discourse. It is possible to encounter such examples throughout the cultural history of the West. The golem of the Jewish mythology, mechanical dolls shaped by the effect of Enlightenment materialism, or automatons such as the Turk, chess player, are examples that prioritize today’s discourse of posthumanism. The common feature of these examples is that they act from the image of the human and emulate it. Nevertheless, they lack the most basic attribute that Enlightenment thought has bestowed on human being: Subject status and the desire, power or will to be the hero of their own history are unfamiliar with the figures mentioned above. However, it is the literature of Romanticism, not Enlightenment, that is primarily responsible for popularizing the posthumanist discourse of 18th century thought. This study will track the posthumanist responses of Romantic literature to the mechanical thinking of the Enlightenment. The figures in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales, such as the animated doll-woman in his The Sandman (1816), which is also known by Freud’s reading of the “uncanny”, or in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818) are evaluated in this context, and they all emphasize the artificial human motif of Romanticism. Automatons, golems, homunculi, androids always move on the same axis and share their creator’s fate, even if they are sometimes out of control. Artificial bodies are located on the dark side of the existence, as they are doomed to remain as the other of the human being. 

DOI :10.26650/sdsl2020-0011   IUP :10.26650/sdsl2020-0011    Full Text (PDF)

Olimpia, Frankenstein’ın Yaratığı ve Diğerleri: Posthümanizmin Yazınsal Kaynakları

Şebnem Sunar

Batılı kültür üretiminde makineler, robotlar ve androidler, çoğu zaman posthümanist söylemle doğrudan ilişkilendirilen yüksek teknolojinin ürünü değildir. Batı’nın kültür tarihi boyunca bu tür örneklerle karşılaşmak mümkündür. Yahudi mitolojisinin golemi, Aydınlanma materyalizminin etkisiyle şekillenen mekanik bebekler ya da satranç oynayan Türk gibi otomatlar, günümüzün posthümanist söylemini önceleyen örnekler olarak karşımıza çıkarlar. Bu örneklerin ortak özelliği, insanın imgesinden hareket etmeleri ve insana öykünmeleridir. Yine de bunlar, Aydınlanmacı düşüncenin insana bahşettiği en temel özellikten yoksundur: Özne statüsü ve kendi tarihlerinin kahramanı olma arzusu, gücü ya da iradesi, bu saydığımız figürlere yabancıdır. Bununla birlikte 18. yüzyıl düşüncesinin posthümanist söylemine edebiyatta Aydınlanma değil Romantizm kaynaklık eder. Bu çalışma, Aydınlanmacı düşünceye Romantik edebiyatın verdiği posthümanist yanıtların izini sürecektir. Freud’un “tekinsiz” okumasıyla da tanıdığımız E.T.A. Hoffmann’ın Kum Adam’ındaki (1816) otomat Olimpia ya da Mary Shelley’nin Frankenstein’ındaki (1818) isimsiz yaratık gibi figürler bu kapsamda değerlendirilirler ve Romantizmin yapay insan motifini öne çıkarırlar. Bu dönemin edebiyatında beden bulan otomatlar, golemler, homunkulüsler, androidler hep aynı eksende devinirler ve kimi zaman yaratıcıları insanın kontrolünden çıksalar da, aslında kültürel öncüllerinin kaderini paylaşırlar: Ya yaratıcıları tarafından özne statüsünden yoksun bırakılırlar ya da ters tepen bir insanı iyileştirme çabasının ürünü olarak kötünün tarafında konumlandırılırlar. Her iki durumda da insanın ötekisi olarak kalmaya mahkûm edilirler.


EXTENDED ABSTRACT


Machines, robots and androids in the cultural production of the West are not often the products of high technology, which is directly associated with the posthumanist discourse. It is possible to encounter such examples throughout the cultural history of the West. The golem of the Jewish mythology, mechanical dolls shaped by the effect of Enlightenment materialism, or automatons such as the Turk, chess player, are examples that prioritize today’s discourse of posthumanism. The common feature of these examples is that they act from the image of the human and emulate it. Nevertheless, they lack the most basic attribute that Enlightenment thought has bestowed on human being: Subject status and the desire, power or will to be the hero of their own history are unfamiliar with the figures mentioned above.

Behind these examples lies the rationalist thought that matches human body with a machine which operates according to the laws of mechanics. Indeed, the philosophical foundations of the image of the mechanical world that originated in posthumanism were laid by Descartes and La Mettrie, the ancestors of rationalist thought. Descartes, who applies the laws of mechanics to the living body, and La Mettrie, who likens man to a machine that builds their main spins alone, unite at the point of explaining the essence of life on a mechanical basis. Like many others, these philosophers both wanted to understand the inner workings of the human body.

Constructing the body and the machine as things that substitute each other supplies a useful allegory in terms of cultural norms in the modern era. Since Renaissance period, the human body has become a topic of the society and its challenges. Humanist ideals of Renaissance period, which became later in the Enlightenment the basis of a dominant cultural model, create the dialectic circumstances of the self and the other, i.e. the distinction between identity and difference. In this connection, the human body has been portrayed with regard to its unique physical characteristics, its difference from all non-human beings, and its improvability within a society. This kind of distinction, which causes a binarism and can be traced back to Plato’s dualism, is a product of an arrogant delusion, is supported by the idea of repetition and proceeds to the act of transferring the human body to its own artificial analogue.

However, it is the literature of Romanticism, not Enlightenment, that is primarily responsible for popularizing the posthumanist discourse of 18th century thought. This study will track the posthumanist responses of Romantic literature to the mechanical thinking of the Enlightenment. The figures in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales, such as the animated doll-woman in his The Sandman (1816), which is also known by Freud’s reading of the “uncanny”, or in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818) are evaluated in this context, and they all emphasize the artificial human motif of Romanticism. With this in mind, two main factors can be identified as the determinants of the artificial human discourse: imitation and movement, through which is given life to a nonliving object. This indicates, on the one hand, that the (human like) body is a machine, and on the other hand, this definition undermines the theological basis of the existence. When viewed from this aspect, artificial human turns into a distorted image of the human being who plays the creator’s role. This study also aims to show that automatons, golems, homunculi, androids always move on the same axis and share their creator’s fate, even if they are sometimes out of control, or at least look like unmanagable from their masters’ perspectives. Artificial bodies are located on the dark side of the existence, as they are doomed to remain as the other of the human being. They are portrayed as a metaphoric border between the human and the rest of the world.


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APA

Sunar, Ş. (2020). Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism. Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur, 0(44), 23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


AMA

Sunar Ş. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism. Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur. 2020;0(44):23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


ABNT

Sunar, Ş. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism. Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 44, p. 23-39, 2020.


Chicago: Author-Date Style

Sunar, Şebnem,. 2020. “Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism.” Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur 0, no. 44: 23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


Chicago: Humanities Style

Sunar, Şebnem,. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism.” Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur 0, no. 44 (Jun. 2021): 23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


Harvard: Australian Style

Sunar, Ş 2020, 'Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism', Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur, vol. 0, no. 44, pp. 23-39, viewed 25 Jun. 2021, https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


Harvard: Author-Date Style

Sunar, Ş. (2020) ‘Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism’, Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur, 0(44), pp. 23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011 (25 Jun. 2021).


MLA

Sunar, Şebnem,. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism.” Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur, vol. 0, no. 44, 2020, pp. 23-39. [Database Container], https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


Vancouver

Sunar Ş. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism. Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur [Internet]. 25 Jun. 2021 [cited 25 Jun. 2021];0(44):23-39. Available from: https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011 doi: 10.26650/sdsl2020-0011


ISNAD

Sunar, Şebnem. Olimpia, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Others: The Literary References of Posthumanism”. Studien zur deutschen Sprache und Literatur 0/44 (Jun. 2021): 23-39. https://doi.org/10.26650/sdsl2020-0011



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Submitted04.05.2020
Accepted30.06.2020
Published Online26.12.2020

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