My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (Book Review) By Extrapolation

My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (Book Review)

By Extrapolation

  • Release Date: 2008-06-22
  • Genre: Language Arts & Disciplines

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Description

The Language of Posthumans. N. Kathcrine Hayles. My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. 290 pp. $22 pbk. My Mother Was a Computer is a significant work of scholarship that builds on I layles' contributions to our understanding of subjectivity in How We Became Posthuman (1999) and her concern with the changing nature of narrative in Writing Machines (2002). In How We Became Posthuman, Hayles critiqued the disembodied notions of subjectivity dominant in the liberal humanist tradition, concluding with an argument for the potentially positive results of embracing a posthumanist subjectivity of distributed agency. In Writing Machines, a work perhaps less familiar to sf scholars, Hayles considered the embodied nature of the literary text, seeing the hegemony of style in what defines the literary text as a disembodiment of literature that is as false and misleading as the Cartesian dualism she critiqued in some versions of posthumanism. Focusing mainly on electronic texts and art books. Writing Machines calls for a new mode of analysis sensitive to the changes in narrative concurrent to the change in medium from the codex to other formats. We might understand these two earlier books, then, to be meditations upon the embodied nature of subjects and the embodied nature of narrative, respectively. My Mother Was a Computer--its title taken from Anne Balsamo's discussion in Technologies of the Gendered Body (1995) of her mother's employment as a computer for Sears in the 1940s brings together the embodied digital subjects of How We Became Posthuman with the embodied literary texts of Writing Machines.