Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood -- By Christina Bieber Lake

Brave New World and Frankenstein have long been recognized as “prophetic” in their treatment of technological ethical dilemmas. In Prophets of the Posthuman, Christina Bieber Lake moves the discussion beyond them to a wider array of American novels and short stories that question the motivations behind the quest for human enhancement in an advanced technological society.

Through a careful treatment of sources in theological and philosophical ethics, Christina Bieber Lake suggests that it is not technology itself, but a misplaced desire for human perfection that is destroying the conditions necessary for an ethics based in mutual recognition of personhood. The literature Bieber Lake highlights—by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Marilynn Robinson, Raymond Carver, and Margaret Atwood, among others—foreshadowed how quickly Americans would turn to biotechnologies to solve the “problems” that—paradoxically—technology told them they have. Those fictional narratives reveal how desire fuels the use of technology, while technology itself gives birth to new desires, a process that stands in tension with the very contentment technological innovations promise.    

“This is an engaging, timely book: a study of American fiction twinned with an ethical critique of biotechnology. Bieber Lake writes on several important works of narrative fiction, and in each case thoughtfully and incisively raises questions about the technological changing of the human body. The book is highly readable, and Bieber Lake wears her considerable knowledge very lightly.” —Kevin Hart, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, University of Virginia

Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood

Christina Bieber Lake

Publication Date: September 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-268-02236-5 / Paperback $38.00

ISBN: 978-0-268-07586-6 / Ebook Perpetual Ownership, $26.60; Ebook 30-day Ownership, $7.00

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Emily McKnight


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