Posthuman Subjectivities in Early British Fantasy Fiction: Jonathan Swift and Lewis Carroll
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Fantasy literature breaches the great divide between dualities, making marginalised and disempowered nonhuman beings much more audible, visible, and intelligible. In fantasy, the human gets stripped of its so-called superiority and is guided to attain a more-than-human subjectivity at the end of the fantastic journey. In parallel with the character of fantasy fiction, posthumanist theories interrogate the notion of the human as the zenith of the universe, the reliance on and parameters of rationality, and the agential capabilities of subjects other than the human. Criticising the liberal humanist notion of anthropocentric subjectivity as continuously structured in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this study combines the discourses of canonical fantasy fictions and contemporary posthumanist theories. In this context, this dissertation aims to investigate the notions of the human, subjectivity, and agency in three British fantasy fictions on the bases of posthumanist theories: Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). About the coalescing characters of posthumanism and fantasy fiction, the first chapter proposes the adoption of fantasy narratives as an effective medium to convey the cautionary message by posthumanist philosophies. In line with this, discussing the Enlightenment philosophers’ discourses on the human nature and subjectivity, the second chapter positions Jonathan Swift as a proto-posthumanist satirist and analyses his Gulliver’s Travels as the first and best example of satirical fantasy fiction in the eighteenth century. The third chapter evaluates the possibilities of new traits of human subjectivity in the nineteenth century as well as Lewis Carroll’s posthumanist ideas, and scrutinises his Alice series as unique examples of fantasy narratives that concentrate on the formation of the heroine’s posthuman subjectivity. While the dissertation commences investigating the cautionary and satirical aspect of fantasy fiction to blur the boundaries between the human and nonhuman realms, it resolves to give an insightful and illustrative account of the posthumanist tendencies inherent in the genre as well as its pioneering examples.