"Prosthetic Immortalities" Seminar for ACLA 2018 in Los Angeles
2018 Annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association
University of California, Los Angeles
March 29 – April 1
Seminar: Prosthetic Immortalities: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Logic of Survival
Abstracts due September 21, 9am EST; submit through the ACLA online portal.
Organizer: Adam R. Rosenthal, Texas A&M University
Prosthetic Immortalities: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Logic of Survival
According to Diotima in Plato’s Symposium, the desire to be immortal is grounded in the structure of mortal nature, which “does all it can to live forever and to be immortal” (206d-209a). For Aristotle as well, writing in De Anima, immortality is thought from the point of view of mortality. Nevertheless, for both, this inherent and fundamental desire is destined to fail. For, if there is one thing that mortal nature wants (immortality), it is also the one thing that, being mortal, it can never have: the immutable and unchanging life of the gods. And so, failing to get what it wants, life must settle for the next best thing, and it is in this way that it opens itself to forms of reproduction: “The most natural act is the production of another like itself, an animal producing an animal, a plant a plant, in order that, as far as its nature allows, it may partake in the immortal and divine” (De Anima II.4 415a25-a28). We all want immortality, but, in fact, what we are capable of are only ever failed attempts that may result in survival.
This seminar is interested in exploring such failed attempts, as well as the proliferation of reproductive technologies that emerge in their wake. It wants to think together the various projects of archivization, supplementation, inscription, and body modification, etc., that are made in the name of immortality and life extension, as well as to explore the relations among what may survive in them, be it a name, fame, memory, beauty, a soul, mind, DNA, a body, code, ashes, or nothing. The seminar is particularly interested in how the “body” or the “self” becomes involved in processes of supplementation, prostheticization, cyborgification, and poeticization so as to achieve this end, and the modes (literary, technological, biological, aesthetic, etc.) through which they are ventured.
Some topics that participants may choose to explore include:
-Poetic discourse as a technic of immortalization
-Modern technological attempts at de-extinction, genetic engineering death, cryogenics, and blood transfusions, aiming to radically extend the upper limit of human life.
-Philosophy as learning how to die
-Heidegger on Dasein, mortality and immortality
-Nietzsche and the Eternal Return of the Same
-Biotech and the big business of radical life extension
-Derridean survivance and life-death
-Mechanical Reproduction and Biological Reproduction
-Textual Lives and Afterlives
Please submit abstracts through the ACLA online portal, which opens Thursday, August 31st at 12pm EST and closes at 9am EST on Thursday, September 21st. Submitters are advised, also, to familiarize themselves with the unique structure of the ACLA conference by visiting http://www.acla.org/annual-meeting. Please contact the seminar organizer with questions or concerns.