Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Comparative Literature and Literary Theory
This project takes its motivation from the need to theorize a subversion or decentering of the human subject that has been widely articulated across the contemporary environmental humanities. The critique of anthropocentrism, I have found, can be enriched by engaging with a strain of modernist writing about bodily breakdown and postmortem decay that mobilizes innovative techniques for confronting nonhuman entities and ecological forces that refuse neat containment within the purview of the human symbolic economy. Bodying forth death and decay in language that performatively disfigures itself and thus articulates its own impotence in the face of what resists or refuses representation, modernist writers generated an aesthetic of enmeshment amid more-than-human assemblages that exceed strictly anthropic determinations. Ultimately, I argue that Charles Baudelaire, Djuna Barnes, and Georges Bataille constitute an acutely undertheorized form of posthumanist modernism. Collectively, this tradition advances the writing of dead and decomposing bodies as a means for reorienting the ontology of the human in relation to the beings and forces that precede, traverse, and exceed the strictly anthropic.
Knudson, Cory Austin, "The Decomposing Body: Posthumanist Modernism And The Ecology Of Decay" (2022). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 5085.