Shifting (A)Genders: Gender, Disability and the Cyborg in American Women’s Science Fiction
thesisposted on 2012-03-21, 12:41 authored by Susan Ursula Anne Smith
Shifting (A)Genders examines the representation of cyborgs in post-war American women’s science fiction, focusing on issues relating to gender and disability. Drawing on ideas expounded in Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1985) and theories of disability that conceptualise the disabled subject as a figure that disrupts the human and gender identity, it explores the ways in which novels by C.L. Moore, Anne McCaffrey, James Tiptree Jr., Joan D. Vinge, Lois McMaster Bujold and Marge Piercy highlight the emancipatory potential of technology for marginalised subjects. While critics argue that Haraway’s theory of the cyborg is idealistic, failing to consider the materiality of the body, this thesis demonstrates that representations of the human-machine in women’s writing emerge at particular historical moments confronting gender stereotypes in science fiction when gender relations are unstable in American society. Situating texts in their socio-historical context, I argue that women writers portray cyborgs differently to male writers and challenge western heteropatriarchal concepts of the human subject. The thesis identifies a shift in focus from representations of female to male cyborgs in women’s writing, which reflect changing perceptions of the gendered and disabled body. It also asserts that anxieties about the instability of gender can be related to moments of social upheaval that define post-war America.