The 'monstrous Other' speaks: Postsubjectivity and the queering of the normal
Adkins, Roger A., 1973-
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Adkins, Roger A., 1973-
This dissertation investigates the cultural importance of the "monstrous Other" in postmodern literature, including novels from Sweden, Finland, and the United States. While the theoretical concept of "the Other" is in wide circulation in the humanities and social sciences, the concept has only recently been modified with the adjective "monstrous" to highlight a special case of the Other that plays an important role in the formation of human subjectivity. In order to better understand the representational legacy of the monstrous Other, I explore some of the principal venues in which it has appeared in western literature, philosophy, folklore, and politics. Using a Foucauldian archaeological approach in my literature survey allows me to trace the tradition of the monstrous Other in such sources as medieval bestiaries, the wild man motif in folklore and popular culture, and the medicalization of intersexual embodiment. In all cases, the monstrous Other is a complex phenomenon with broad implications for the politics of subjectivity and the future of social and political justice. Moreover, the monstrous Other poses significant challenges for the ongoing tenability of normative notions of the human, including such primary human traits as sexuality and a gendered, "natural" embodiment. Given the complexities of the monstrous Other and the ways in which it both upholds and intervenes in normative human identities, no single theoretical approach is adequate to the task of examining its functioning. Instead, the project calls for an approach that blends the methodologies of (post)psychoanalytic and queer theory while retaining a critical awareness of both the representational nature of subjectivity and its material effects. By employing both strains of theory, I am able to "read" the monstrous Other as both a necessary condition of subjectivity and a model of intersubjectivity that could provide an alternative to the positivism and binarism of normative subjectivity. The texts that I examine here reveal the ways in which postmodern reconfigurations of the monstrous Other challenge the (hetero)normativity of human subjectivity and its hierarchical forms of differentiation. My reading of these texts locates the possibilities for a hybridized, cyborgian existence beyond the outermost limits of positivistic, western subjectivity.
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