Public defence: Non-normative lives in normative narratives
Master Tom Z. Bradstreet at the Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages will defend his dissertation Towards a Poetics of Posthumanism: Disability, Animality, and the Biopolitics of Narrative in Contemporary Anglophone Literature for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).
Representing the lived experiences of disabled people and animals in literature can remind us of the value of different lives – but not all narratives are born equal.
How do certain lives come to be understood as more or less valuable than others? Inspired by this question, Tom Z. Bradstreet’s doctoral dissertation examines the ways in which disabled people and animals, two populations whose lives are often considered more ‘disposable’ than those of nondisabled human beings, are portrayed in a corpus of literary narratives published within the last 25 years.
Representing the subjective experiences of disability and animality in literary narratives can be a powerful means of redressing the misconceptions that have fuelled the centuries of suffering that disabled people and nonhuman animals have endured—but, in ‘Towards a Poetics of Posthumanism: Disability, Animality, and the Biopolitics of Narrative in Contemporary Anglophone Literature’, Bradstreet argues that not all narratives are equally capable of doing so. His research breaks new ground by arguing that two of the most popular forms of literary narrative, the novel and autobiography, are often unfit to represent disabled and nonhuman lives because the genres themselves are shaped by the same values that have served to marginalise both populations. Rather than making disabled and animal experiences fit the mould of conventional narrative shapes and structures, Bradstreet advocates what he calls a ‘poetics of posthumanism’: an unorthodox mode of narrative representation that can do justice to disabled and nonhuman lives without also doing violence to them at the same time.
The defence will stream live on May 6, 3 pm. A link to the livestream will be posted here.
A recording of the trial lecture will be posted here on May 4.
Professor Rachel Adams, Columbia University
Professor Robert McKay, University of Sheffield
Associate Professor Bruce Barnhart, University of Oslo
Chair of the defence
Professor Anne Birgitte Rønning
Professor Michael Lundblad, University of Oslo
Professor Cary Wolfe, Rice University