Performing infancy: Transmitting/transmuting the inhuman in evolutionary and technological gothic
Jackson, Kimberly B
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Elaborating on the research of Jean-François Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jean Baudrillard, this dissertation discusses the ways in which the performativity (the relationship between the text and its reading[s]) of certain gothic texts highlights a fundamental human-inhuman threshold that I develop as "technological difference." These texts characterize this new relation via the figure of a 'child' born thereof. The texts included in this analysis represent two gothic movements, one 'evolutionary' and the other 'technological.' The former includes works from Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Machen, and H. G. Wells, while the latter references contemporary films, most extensively Gore Verbinski's The Ring and William Malone's feardotcom . All are connected in the nature of their 'progeny'--its ability to both be and effect the movement(s) of the texts themselves in their being-read/being-viewed. This 'figural' nature allows the child to take on the status of a fundamental 'infancy,' which is intimately connected to that irreducible bodily difference which opens the individual to the world. The body is connected to the text not only in the content of the stories, but also in the violence of their figuration, through which the text effectively 'comes alive' to affect/infect its own reading (and thus its reader/viewer). The 'gothic' nature of the texts both emphasizes the darkness of/at the human-inhuman threshold (that it is not to be taken 'lightly') and reverses the structure of cause and effect, wrong and revenge, opening the possibility of an escape from these cycles in which the human-as-subject has historically been caught. The structural and performative similarities between the two historically separate gothic movements implies more than that the first informs the second. More importantly, the correlation signifies that the human, in spite of its subjection to the tenacity of Baudrillardian 'simulation,' is still capable of harboring 'secrets,' even as various e-volutions and de-volutions incessantly rob it of its privileged position in the world.