REPOST: Misanthropy and Transhumanism in Utopian Fiction

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Patrick Smyth
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Man is a rope stretched … over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal.

-Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

If human beings were shown what they're really like, they'd either kill one another as vermin, or hang themselves.

-Aldous Huxley, Eyeless in Gaza

Some have viewed misanthropy as a viable philosophical stance, while others have regarded it as unproductive, seditious, or dangerously unbalanced. Yet the world has changed a great deal since Diogenes of Sinope carried a lamp in the daytime, searching for an honest man, or Swift's Gulliver rejected the virtues of humans for those of horses. Genetic engineering, the environmental crisis, nuclear weapons, and advances in artificial intelligence have forced humanity to face the possibility of its own alteration, evolution, or destruction. Writers such as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood, Samuel R. Delany, Verner Vinge, and Ursula K. Le Guin have envisioned futures that include the transhuman, the posthuman, and the sans human. What new forms has misanthropy taken in these new visions of the future?

What does it mean to be a misanthrope in a society that calls into question the very definition of humanity? Can misanthropy, in recognizing humanity's flaws, envision a "more human human," or is misanthropy a purely reactionary philosophical stance? How does misanthropy relate to optimism and pessimism in utopian fiction?

This panel will question the position occupied by misanthropy in utopian literature and thought. Possible avenues of exploration include:

- Transhumanism and new visions of the body
- Misogyny and misandry in utopian fiction
- Environmental misanthropy
- Misanthropy and satire
- Optimistic and pessimistic visions of humanity
- Hermitage and withdrawal from society
- Posthumanism and Sanshumanism

Please send 250-300 word proposals for a conference-length presentation on the place of misanthropy in utopian fiction. Include your institutional affiliation, a brief outline of your topic, and the texts and critical methodologies you will bring to bear in your presentation. Send questions and proposals to Patrick Smyth at

The Society for Utopian Studies will be hosting its 38th annual meeting at Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina on November 14-17, 2013.