Monsters manufactured: the human animal hybrid in science fiction and Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto”

Tsitas, E 2013, Monsters manufactured: the human animal hybrid in science fiction and Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto”, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Creative Media, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Monsters manufactured: the human animal hybrid in science fiction and Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto”
Author(s) Tsitas, E
Year 2013
Abstract In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, the monster created by science was denied a place at the table of humanity, despite being endowed with intellect and language. Since philosophers of the Platonic Academy debated about what constitutes a human, man has defined himself against the animal. From Frankenstein’s creature, to the Beast Creatures in H.G. Wells 1896 novel The Island Of Doctor Moreau, and on to the genetically created hybrid Dren in Vincenzo Natali’s 2009 movie Splice, the species barrier is brutally enforced even as it is penetrated by science.
In the 27 years since the publication of Donna Haraway’s seminal essay “A Cyborg Manifesto”, the human-animal hybrid in science fiction, unlike the man-machine cyborg character, has not been similarly accepted as having the status of personhood. In this exegesis, I identify the human-animal hybrid in science fiction as a cyborg, according to Haraway’s manifesto. I argue that Haraway’s cyborg theories are valid ways of understanding the hybrid in science fiction.
The hybrid character exists in a state of confusion and apprehension, never knowing which side of the species boundary they sit or whether they have a place at humanity’s table or are to gnaw the scraps thrown under it. Using Haraway’s theories in “A Cyborg Manifesto” for guidance, this exegesis will examine the character of the hybrid as a literary device. In doing so, the objective of this research is to answer the following questions:
1. According to Haraway, how do we define the cyborg in science fiction?
2. How might we apply Haraway's key criteria to the hybrid characters – the creature in Frankenstein, the Beast Men in The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Dren in Splice?
3. How useful or not are these criteria in developing hybrid characters and forming writing techniques for my own creative project, and for science fiction writers in general?
I began with an interest in understanding how the principles of cyborg existence embedded in Haraway’s theories could be applied to hybrid characters in science fiction. In examining the hybrids in three key works of science fiction, I have identified this particular form of hybrid as a way of taking ourselves into the animal world and out of it at the same time. This hybrid reflects the struggles that the human has to alternatively, and at times simultaneously, efface and recognise its animal side.
Together with the author’s own creative work Almost Human this exegesis will explore how the hybrid in science fiction is a trope in which the character’s internal conflict mirrors our anxiety about notions of humanity and the relation between the animal and the human. The research will also explore whether there is a unique life-cycle for hybrids that emerges in fiction.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Creative Media
Keyword(s) Donna Haraway
Cyborg
Human-animal hybrid
Science fiction
The Island of Doctor Moreau
Frankenstein
Splice
H.G. Wells
Vincenzo Natali
Mary Shelley
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