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Chapter 8 - Prosthetics and Simulacra: The Postmodern Novel

from Part V - The Posthuman Body: From Orwell to Atwood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Peter Boxall
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
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Summary

This chapter explores the relation between the novel form and the emergence of postmodernism, postcolonialism, postfeminism and posthumanism in the second half of the twentieth century. It begins with an analysis of the relation between the prosthetic and the simulacral, under postmodern conditions, and with the technological revolution associated with the advent of computing. The novel, it suggests, from Orwell to Brooke-Rose, is involved in a difficult relationship with postmodernism, one which gives expression to its possibilities, while also seeking to resist its erosion of the materiality of our cultures and environments. It traces a strand of experimental realism in the postwar novel that is at odds with the terms in which we have conceived of postmodern fiction. It then goes on to read two of the novelists who are associated with the postmodern novel – Thomas Pynchon and Toni Morrison – to suggest that one can detect a persistent opposition in their work between the simulacrum and the prosthetic, one which helps us see past some of the contradictions that are the result of our existing accounts of postmodern politics and aesthetics.

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The Prosthetic Imagination
A History of the Novel as Artificial Life
, pp. 287 - 318
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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