Postmodern Potencies: Interrogating the Monstrous Sign in Contemporary Society

In: Monstrous manifestations: Realities and the Imaginings of the Monster

Looking through the lens of one of monster narratives’ most captivating examples, that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as its late twentieth century adaptations in an X Files episode titled ‘The Postmodern Prometheus’ and Shelley Jackson’s literary hypertext Patchwork Girl, this chapter argues that the fragmented and de-naturalised postmodernist reality has allowed for a shift in embodied monstrosity to the liminal figure of the cyborg. Furthermore, these two intrinsically postmodern meta-fictional adaptations of Frankenstein that resist the possibility of an overruling narrative perform the analogous function of the monstrous sign itself - that of re-evaluating the constructed-ness of established narratives, both of literature and of the body in society. This chapter thus addresses the potential of the postmodern and post-human metaphor to constantly disrupt conceptual systems steeped in ideas of centre, hierarchy and uniformity, instead re-invigorating them with plurality and non-normative differences between subjects without dismissing their corporeality. My analysis then appropriates these inferences from the purview of disability studies, engaging with issues pertaining to ways of representing bodily difference. Finally, after tracing a parallel social trajectory of the semantic shifts in the monster sign giving way to the cyborg, post-human metaphor, I examine the latter’s ability of de-naturalising the body with respect to challenging impairment as a pre-discursive category and the social production of disability.

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