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Introduction to Posthumanist Thought

Class at Faculty of Arts |



Jana Gridneva, M.A. (& David Vichnar, PhD)

CCCT Elective M.A. Seminar, DALC Charles University

Tuesday 5.30-7 pm, Room 104


The aim of this course is to introduce students to the main premises, issues and arguments of posthumanist thinking and the developments it has gone through from the 1990s to the present. It will proceed from a wide definition to posthumanism as a line of thought that depends on redefining the concepts of subjectivity and agency. The course will present the students with a selection of texts demonstrating the different perspectives from which the humanist subject has been “attacked” and redefined over the last three decades – among others, (xeno)feminism, animal studies, gender studies, environmentalism. Towards the second half of the course the students will get to consider the problem of representation inherent in the posthumanist shift and the representational strategies that allow for destabilization of the subject. Accordingly, the course will include two sessions devoted to 4 films that will provide the platform to analyze posthumanist representations and serve as an opportunity to revise the material covered in the first part of the course. The end of the course will focus on the contemporary ecological crisis as a problem of thinking and imagination.


Week 1 Introduction: Searching for a definition.

(Feb 16) “What is Posthumanism” in Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism? (2009).

Week 2 Introduction to Posthumanism: After the Subject?

(Feb 23) Jacques Rancière, “After What,” in Who Comes After the Subject? (1991).

Week 3 After the Human

(Mar 2) N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (1999): Chapter 1, pp. 1- 25

Optional: Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (2013): Chapter 1, pp. 13-55

Week 4 After the Animal (1)

(Mar 9) Jacques Derrida, “And Say the Animal Responded?” Zoontologies (2003).

Optional: Matthew Calarco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (2008): Chapter 4, pp. 103-51.

Week 5 After the Animal (2)

(Mar 16) Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet (2007): pp. 15 (from Companion Species) – 27 (till Becoming-Animal); Chapter 11, pp. 275-285.

Optional: Susan McHugh, Animal Stories: Narrating Across Species Lines (2011) – excerpts.

Week 6 After Gender (1)

(Mar 23) Nicole Seymour, Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination (2013): Chapter 1, pages 1-35.

Optional: Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” (1987).

Week 7 After Gender (2)

(Mar 30) Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004): Chapter 1, pp. 1-33

Week 8 After Gender (3)

(Apr 6) Helen Hester, Xenofeminism (2018).

Xenofeminism – Guest Lecturer Elizabet Kovačeva, M.A.

Week 9 After All: Posthumanism and the Violence of Representation.

(Apr 13) Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (2016): Chapter 2, pp. 63-101.

Optional: Benjamin Noys, “The Violence of Representation and the Representation of Violence,” Violence and the Limits of Representation (2013).

Discussion of movies: Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982), Derek Jarman, Edward II (1991).

Week 10 After All: Posthumanism and the Violence of Representation.

(Apr 20) N. Seymour, “It’s Just Not Turning Up: AIDS, Cinematic Vision, and Environmental Justice in Todd Haynes’s Safe” from Strange Natures (2011)

Discussion of movies: Todd Hayne, Safe (1995), Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, They (2017).

Week 11 The Environmental Crisis: Anthropocene or Capitalocene.

(Apr 27) Jason W. Moore, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (2016): Chapter 4, pp. 116 – 138.

Optional: Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture: the Ecological Crisis of Reason (2002): Chapter 4 (pp. 81-97); Chapter 9

Week 12 The Environmental Crisis: Ways Out

(May 4) Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, 2018.

Optional: Louis Armand, “The posthuman abstract: AI, DRONOLOGY & “BECOMING ALIEN”” (2018).

Week 13 Conclusion.

(May 11) Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, 2018.


Recommended Reading

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980).

Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am (2002). hooks, bell. Outlaw culture: resisting representations (1994).

Kovel, Joel. The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? (2012).

Patel, Raj and Jason W. Moore. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things (2018).

Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (1987).

Žižek, Slavoj Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism (2015).


To obtain credit all students are expected to read the assigned texts, actively participate in the seminar, with a maximum of 3 absences, send an email posting before every session, and submit a final paper, 4 000 words by the end of June (individual extension possible after consultation).


A mandatory part of active participation in the course will be a weekly email posting of a student’s individual critical response (around 200 words) regarding any issue emerging from the week’s primary reading. The posting should be sent to the instructor via email at least one day before the respective session.

Every session (90 minutes) will include:

(1) a brief presentation of the assigned texts by the instructor

(2) a student-led discussion of the texts’ main points and how they fit into the posthumanist framework.


Exam (25% participation, 25% email postings, 50% final paper) / Credits: 5

Jana Gridneva received her MA from the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures of Charles University in Prague. Her MA thesis is entitled Rethinking the Animal: Post-Humanist Tendencies in (Post) Modern Literature. She has been awarded a postgraduate scholarship and is currently pursuing a PhD at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory (DALC, Faculty of Arts, Charles University). Her research is focused on the representation of animals in contemporary culture. She has participated in several international conferences including The Human-Animal Line: Interdisciplinary Approaches organized by CEFRES and the French institute in Prague, February 7th – 9th 2017 and 6th Conference of the European Association for Critical Animal Studies (EACAS) Barcelona, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 22-24 May 2019.

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