Bugs After the Bomb: Insect Representations in Postatomic American Fiction and Film.

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dc.contributor.author Cassel, Catherine S.
dc.date.accessioned 2016-09-13T13:51:35Z
dc.date.available NO_RESTRICTION
dc.date.available 2016-09-13T13:51:35Z
dc.date.issued 2016
dc.date.submitted 2016
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/133284
dc.description.abstract As cold-blooded invertebrates which more often provoke disgust than delight, insect tend to be overlooked within animal studies in favor of warm-blooded beings in whom it is easier to perceive expression of emotion more “like ours.” Since insects and other arthropods are often conceived of as smaller, “lower,” and more “simple” forms of life, they are thought of as more like machines than animals, lifeless automatons that react to the world with blind instinct rather than agential beings who respond to the world with proclivities and inclinations all their own. This dissertation examines how such a view of insects and other bug-like creatures embodied cultural anxieties about postatomic life in 20th century North American literature, film, and culture. I coin the term “insectoid figuration” to expand beyond Linnaean classification to account for the more affectively motivated layperson’s categorical understanding of “bugs” in order to argue that insectoid figuration became a powerful political register for articulating concerns about American social order, language, dehumanization, and xenophobia. I bridge critical animal studies, materialist feminism, affect theory, and posthumanism to reveal how humanism depends upon abjection of animality by espousing exceptionalist views of human affective capacities. The various insectoid figurations which I explore in this dissertation—the bevy of mutated, big bugs which stomped across the celluloid screen in the 1950s; the centipede as an agent of viral control in William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch and other cut-up experimentations; the femme fatale gynoid modeled on insect mimicry and praying mantises in Philip K. Dick’s dystopic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; the Oankali, an insectoid alien species which seeks genetic trade with humans in Octavia E. Butler’s speculative trilogy Lilith’s Brood—shuttle between the literal and figurative, the material and semiotic, encompass a range of affects and anxieties, and ultimately form a signifying constellation which lays bare shifts in how American social order was conceptualized after the chaos of World War II and in the aftermath of atomic potentiality especially in response to severe environmental degradation.
dc.language.iso en_US
dc.subject Insect metaphor
dc.subject Feminist theory
dc.subject William S. Burroughs
dc.subject Philip K. Dick
dc.subject Octavia E. Butler
dc.subject Animal studies
dc.title Bugs After the Bomb: Insect Representations in Postatomic American Fiction and Film.
dc.description.thesisdegreename PhD
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline English and Women's Studies
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies
dc.contributor.committeemember McCracken, Peggy S
dc.contributor.committeemember Yaeger, Patricia Smith
dc.contributor.committeemember Freedman, Jonathan E
dc.contributor.committeemember Yergeau, Melanie R
dc.contributor.committeemember Blair, Sara B
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Screen Arts and Cultures
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel American and Canadian Studies
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel English Language and Literature
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Women's and Gender Studies
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Humanities
dc.description.bitstreamurl http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/133284/1/cscassel_1.pdf
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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