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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Chapter 24 - Posthuman Postapocalypse

from Part III - Varieties of Apocalyptic Experience


What remains in life’s wake? Postapocalyptic literature long has imagined the end as a kind of beginning; someone or something always survives Armageddon, if only for a time. This is the postapocalyptic condition of possibility, enabling the genre’s cathected tropes of loss and redemption, regression and advance. Even when the survivors are not recognizably human—are androids, aliens, or nonhuman animals—“life” goes on. Engaging with a range of American fiction and nonfiction (from Ray Bradbury to Octavia Butler to Ray Kurzweil), this essay argues that what unites the posthuman and the postapocalyptic is, first, a shared, vitalistic investment in what might be called “life after death” and, second, a refusal or inability to narrate a final, lasting extinction. In H. P. Lovecraft’s radical take on Darwinian evolution, however, we can see the prospect of a posthuman sublime that never reconstitutes the autonomous subject. The chapter concludes with a brief meditation on the implications—metaphysical, biopolitical, and critical—of this self-alienation.

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