"Mothering Monsters" - Paper Abstract for ICFA 2012

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 14:43

Mothering Monsters: Technology, Reproduction, and the Maternal Body in
Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber

Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl (2002) and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber (2000) explore the ways that reproductive technologies have the capacity to reshape human being in unexpected and frightening ways. Drawing on corporeal feminism (of Margrit Shildrick and Elizabeth Grosz, most notably), I interrogate the ways in which Lai and Hopkinson explore issues of monstrosity, maternity, and reproduction in posthuman worlds. Cloning meets reincarnation in Salt Fish Girl, as Lai traces the journey of durian-odoured Miranda from adolescence to motherhood. I examine the ways reproductive technologies, like cloning, intersect with environmental pollution and hybrid diseases to create a threatening maternal body that has no need for men. Lai reflects that “now we step out of moist earth, out of DNA new and old, an imprint of what has gone before, but also a variation. [...] By our strangeness we write our bodies into the future” (SFG, 259). Miranda’s struggles with corporeal indeterminacy and “seepage” are reflected, I argue, in Midnight Robber’s Tan-Tan. Like Lai, Hopkinson exposes the particular vulnerability and monstrosity inherent in maternity as Tan-Tan struggles with self-actualization and non-normative embodiment. Straddling the worlds of technology (Toussaint) and unadulterated nature (New Half-Way Tree), Tan-Tan becomes a contested site of the posthuman mother – her child is directly connected to the Grande Anansi Nanotech Interface: “[His] little bodystring will sing to Nanny tune, doux-doux. [He] will be a weave in she flesh” (MR, 328). Reading these two texts as exemplars of feminist post-cyberpunk SF, I ultimately propose that Lai and Hopkinson situate the monstrous maternal body as both vulnerable and technologically adaptable. Salt Fish Girl and Midnight Robber articulate the dangers inherent in adopting any new technology, but remain optimistic that the maternal body will continue to replicate on its own terms and in unforeseen ways.

 

Proposed Bibliography

Anatol, Giselle Liza. “Maternal Discourses in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber.” African  American Review. 40.1 (Spring 2006). 1-14. Print.

Barr, Marleen, Ed. Future Females, The Next Generation: New Voices and Velocities in  Feminist Science Fiction Criticism. Lanham: Rowman and  Littlefield Publishers, 2000.  13-34. Print.

- - - . “’We’re at the start of a new ball game and that’s why we’re all real nervous’: Or, Cloning – Technological Cognition Reflects Estrangement from Women.” Learning From Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia. Ed. Patrick Parrinder. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. 193-207. Print.

Braidotti, Rosi. “Cyberteratologies: Female Monsters Negotiate the Other’s Participation in Humanity’s Far Future.” Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium. Ed. Marleen Barr. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. 146-172. Print.

Doane, Mary Ann. “Technophilia: Technology, Representation, and the Feminine.” Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Ed. Jenny Wolmark. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. 20-33. Print.

Graham, Elaine. Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens, and Others in Popular Culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Print.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1999. Print.

Hopkinson, Nalo. Midnight Robber. New York: Warner Books, 2000. Print.

Lai, Larissa. Salt Fish Girl. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2008. Print.

Lee, Tara. “Mutant Bodies in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl: Challenging the Alliance Between Science and Capital.” West Coast Line 38.2 (Fall 2004): 1-11. Print.

Morris, Robyn. “’What Does it Mean to be Human?’: Racing Monsters, Clones and Replicants.” Foundation (Summer 2004): 81-96. Print.

Rogan, Alcena Madeline Davis. “Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson Revisit the Reproduction of Mothering.” Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory. Ed. Marleen S. Barr. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008. 75-99. Print.

Shildrick, Margrit. Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self London: SAGE Publications, 2002. Print.

Vint, Sherryl. Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Print.

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