“The End of Human Exceptionality”: The Shift of the Anthropological Dominant in Science Fiction
Keywords:anthropology, personosphere, science fiction, fantasy, “phantasoid”, Clifford Simak
Based on the methodological proposals of literary anthropology, in particular on the conceptual ideas of C. Levi-Strauss (structural anthropology), J. Ortega y Gasset (“dehumanization of arts”), J.-M. Schaeffer (“the end of human exceptionality”), M. Foucault (the fall of a human being from the humanistic pedestal of culture), the article under studies emphasizes the violation of the anthropological dominant in science fiction, which is very typical of the fantasy genre. Consequently, there arise new principles of constructing personosphere of a literary text. On the example of the novel “City” (1953) by an American science fiction writer Clifford Simak, the article traces the way a human being shifts from the center of personosphere to the “outskirts” of narration, whereas its image acquires fictional parameters. This all happens due to the phenomenon of “anthropocene” (the term by G. Canavan), which implies the harmful consequences of the human reigning over the nature. In addition, the author of the article introduces the notion of “phantasoid’ – a character of the fictional world of fantasy (outlined by the narrator) that functions exceptionally in the imagination of a certain fantastic character and is somehow related to his previous experience. The novel by C. Simak outlines a gradual shift of the anthropological vector: the heterogeneous image of a human turns into a counter-image, whereby particular significance is attached to the change in the attitude towards mankind. In the text, human culture is perceived as something alien, while Simak’s image of a human being ruins the so called imagological stereotype, along with the reader’s receptive expectations. The role of the attractor in the novel is assigned to “antromorphized” and “humanized” creatures (plants, animals, objects, robots, mutants), which indicates the drastic breach with the previous genre tradition, as well as higlights a peculiar polemic connection with classical literary science fiction. This all proves the metamorphic nature of science fiction and its transition into the hyperreal dimensions of fantasy, where different artificial forms of life and mentality can peacefully coexist with each other.
Bakhtin, M. (2008). Sobranie sochinenii. V 7 tomakh [Collected works. In 7 volumes]. Moscow : Iazyki slavianskikh kul'tur, vol. 4 (1), 1120 p.
Vereshchagina, N. (2018). Sposoby konstruirovaniia inoplanetnogo: antropomorfizm i antropologiia [Methods of making an extraterrestrial: anthropomorphism and anthropology]. Vestnik Permskogo natsional'nogo issledovatel'skogo politekhnicheskogo universiteta. Kul'tura. Istoriia. Filosofiia. Pravo, no. 1, pp. 11–18. https://doi.org/10.15593/perm.kipf/2018.1.02
Gopman, V. (1990). Miru nuzhna dobrota [The world needs kindness]. In: Biblioteka nauchnoi fantastiki. V 24 tomakh. Moscow : Raduga, vol. 18 (2), pp. 5–12.
Kniazkov, S. (1999). Bibleiskii mif v literature SShA XIX–XX vekov (ot G. Melvilla do K. Saimaka) [Biblical myth in the literature of the United States of the XIX–XX centuries (from H. Melville to C. Simak)]. Kul'tura narodov Prichernomor'ia, no. 11, pp. 119–122.
Kovtun, E. (1999). Poetika neobychainogo: khudozhestvennye miry fantastiki, volshebnoi skazki, utopii, pritchi i mifa (na materiale evropeiskoi literatury pervoi poloviny XX veka) [Poetics of the extraordinary: the fictional worlds of fantasy, fairy tale, utopia, parable and myth (based on the material of European literature of the first half of the XX century)]. Moscow : Izdatel'stvo Moskovskogo universiteta, 308 p.
Lévi-Strauss, C. (2001). Strukturnaia antropologiia [Structural Anthropology]. Translated from the French by V. Ivanov. Moscow : EKSMO-Press, 512 p.
Ortega y Gasset, J. (1994). Vybrani tvory [Selected works]. Translated from the Spanish by W. Burghardt, V. Sakhno, O. Tovstenko. Kyiv : Osnovy, 420 p.
Revich, V. (1991). Zemnoi chelovek na rendez-vous [The Earthly Man at rendez-vous]. In: Simak, C. Gorod. Vse zhivoe… Rasskazy. Moscow : Pravda, pp. 467–479.
Todorov, T. (1999). Vvedenie v fantasticheskuiu literature [The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre]. Translated from the French by B. Narumov. Moscow : Dom intellektual'noi knigi, 144 p.
Heller, L. (ed.) (2007). Utopiia “zverinosti”. Reprezentatsiia zhivotnykh v russkoi kul'ture [The utopia of “bestialness”. The representation of animals in Russian culture]. Lausanne, Drohobych : Kolo, 216 p.
Foucault, M. (1994). Slova i veshchi. Arkheologiia gumanitarnykh nauk [The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences]. Translated from the French by V. Vizgin, N. Avtonomova. Saint Petersburg : A-cad, 405 p.
Schaeffer, J.-M. (2010). Konets chelovecheskoi iskliuchitel'nosti [The End of Human Exceptionality]. Translated from the French by S. Zenkin. Moscow : Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 392 p.
Epstein, M. (2017). Proektivnyi slovar' gumanitarnykh nauk [Projective Dictionary of the Humanities]. Moscow : Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 616 s.
Ewald, R. J. (2006). When the Fires Burn High and the Wind is from the North: The Pastoral Science Fiction of Clifford D Simak. San Bernardino, California : The Borgo Press, 160 p.
Moskowitz, S. (1966). Clifford D. Simak in Seekers of Tomorrow. Cleveland, Ohio : World Publishing Company, 443 p.
Simak, C. (1952). City. URL: https://booksonline.com.ua/view.php?book=145010 (accessed: 15 November 2021).
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Dan Paranyuk
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.