Addressing a key issue related to human nature, this book argues that the first-person experience of pure consciousness may soon be under threat from posthuman biotechnology. In exploiting the mind’s capacity for instrumental behavior, posthumanists seek to extend human experience by physically projecting the mind outward through the continuity of thought and the material world, as through telepresence and other forms of prosthetic enhancements. Posthumanism envisions a biology/machine symbiosis that will promote this extension, arguably at the expense of the natural tendency of the mind to move toward pure consciousness. As each chapter of this book contends, by forcibly overextending and thus jeopardizing the neurophysiology of consciousness, the posthuman condition could in the long term undermine human nature, defined as the effortless capacity for transcending the mind’s conceptual content. Presented here for the first time, the essential argument of this book is more than a warning; it gives a direction: far better to practice patience and develop pure consciousness and evolve into a higher human being than to fall prey to the Faustian temptations of biotechnological power. As argued throughout the book, each person must choose for him or herself between the technological extension of physical experience through mind, body and world on the one hand, and the natural powers of human consciousness on the other as a means to realize their ultimate vision.
The Case of Henry James
Opera and the Novel: The Case of Henry James offers the first full-length study of the theory and practice of the adaptation of fiction into opera: the transference of a work from one medium to another – metaphrasis – is its point of departure. Starting with a survey of the current thinking regarding the nexus between words and music with specific reference to operatic adaptation of existing literary works, it traces the four-hundred-year history of opera, demonstrating that the novel has become increasingly attractive to librettists and composers as an operatic source. As the resources of modern music theatre have increased in sophistication, so too have the possibilities for an expanded engagement with complex fictional works. The intricate relationship between fictional and musical narrative is examined: the proposition that the orchestra assumes much of the function of the narrator in fiction is explored. The second section is a detailed examination of eight operatic works based on Henry James’s fiction. It is opera’s unique capability to present the intense emotional and psychological situations central to James’s fiction as well as the ability to engage with his synthesis of melodrama and psychological ambiguity which makes James’s work peculiarly amenable to operatic adaptation. Composers who have used James as a source include Douglas Moore, Benjamin Britten, Thomas Pasatieri, Donald Hollier, Thea Musgrave, Philip Hagemann and Dominick Argento. The operas discussed represent a contemporary critical and often self-conscious engagement with the art form itself as well as illustrating current adaptive strategies, and suggest ways in which new operatic paths may be forged. This volume is of relevance to students and scholars of English literature and opera as well as readers who take an interest in intermedial research and the question of adaptation in general.
Twentieth-Century American Literature, Culture and Biography
Edited by Hans Bak
Uneasy Alliance illuminates the recent search in literary studies for a new interface between textual and contextual readings. Written in tribute to G.A.M. Janssens, the twenty-one essays in the volume exemplify a renewed awareness of the paradoxical nature of literary texts both as works of literary art and as documents embedded in and functioning within a writer’s life and culture. Together they offer fresh and often interdisciplinary perspectives on twentieth-century American writers of more or less established status (Henry James, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.E. Cummings, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, Saul Bellow, Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros) as well as on those who, for reasons of fashion, politics, ideology, or gender, have been unduly neglected (Booth Tarkington, Julia Peterkin, Robert Coates, Martha Gellhorn, Isabella Gardner, Karl Shapiro, the young Jewish-American writers, Julia Alvarez, and writers of popular crime and detective fiction). Exploring the fruitful interactions and uneasy alliance between literature and ethics, film, biography, gender studies, popular culture, avant-garde art, urban studies, anthropology and multicultural studies, together these essays testify to the ongoing pertinence of an approach to literature that is undogmatic, sensitive and sophisticated and that seeks to do justice to the complex interweavings of literature, culture and biography in twentieth-century American writing.