John Plotz - 'We Have Always Been Posthuman: Speculative Satire before Science Fiction'

Event description

  • Academic events
  • Campus life
  • Free
  • Open to the public

Please join us for the annual Ian Fletcher Memorial Lecture on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, at 5:15 p.m. in Ross-Blakley Hall (RBHL) room 196 on the ASU Tempe campus. 

This event is sponsored by the ASU Department of English in honor of Professor Ian Fletcher (1920-1988).

Doors open at 4:45 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

About this year's event

John Plotz image courtesy Brandeis UniversityOur lecture this year will be delivered by John Plotz, the Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and the co-host of Recall This Book podcast. His talk is titled, "We Have Always Been Posthuman: Speculative Satire before Science Fiction." 

Well before the twentieth-century genre of science fiction was officially named, satirical speculative fiction decentered human subjectivity in ways that strikingly resemble what in our own Anthropocene era has been called “posthumanism.” Late nineteenth-century works labelled utopic ("News from Nowhere"), dystopic ("After London," "Erewhon"), and comical/nonsensical ("Flatland," "Alice in Wonderland") reveal a persistent strain of anti-anthropocentric thinking. Within an era often thought of as homogeneously capitalist and committed to empiricism or positivism, Victorian speculative satire is an under-appreciated instance of what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “immanent counter-Enlightenment discourses.” Such satire in its various manifestations can remind modern-day readers that “man is the measure of all things” was a highly debated proposition even at the height of the Industrial/Imperial age.

Professor Plotz, whose research interests are in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature, the novel, science fiction, and fantasy, is the author of "The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics" (2000), "Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move" (2008), "Semi-Detached: Aesthetic Experience from Dickens to Keaton" (2017), and "My Reading: Ursula Le Guin’s 'Earthsea'" (2023).

This event is also generously supported by the following ASU units: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Institute for Humanities Research; the School of International Letters and Cultures; the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; and the School of Social Transformation.

Event contact

Melissa Free

Monday, October 2, 2023

Doors open at 4:45 p.m. Lecture begins at 5:15 p.m.

5:15 pm6:30 pm (MST)


Ross-Blakley Hall room 196