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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).

Doktorgradskandidat Tom Z. Bradstreet, vegg med skriften "Det humanistiske fakultet"

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.

Tom Z. Bradstreet successfully defended his dissertation on May 6, 2021.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: "Realism and Naturalism in the American Novel"

Published May 4, 2021.

Evaluation committee

Professor Robert McKay, University of Sheffield (1. opponent)

Professor Rachel Adams, Columbia University (2. opponent)

Associate Professor Bruce Barnhart, University of Oslo (chair of the committee)

Chair of the defence

Professor Rebecca Scherr, University of Oslo


Professor Michael Lundblad, University of Oslo

Professor Cary Wolfe, Rice University

Published Apr. 7, 2021 2:48 PM - Last modified May 7, 2021 10:13 AM