Megan Moore publishes article "Medieval Emotions and Posthuman Subjectivities: Cyborgs and Desire"

Megan Moore

Prof. Moore's latest article explores the concept of the human and human privilege in the intersection of medieval and post-humanist/cyborg studies, focusing on how extreme forms of privilege in the Middle Ages and in late capitalism produce narratives about whose lives and deaths matter:

Medieval studies is an excellent vantage point from which to complicate and elucidate current discussions of futurism, particularly around ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) and technology should inform constructions of future humanisms. Much of the recent work in post-humanist and ecocritical discussions critique and evaluate AI’s success in terms of its humanity, often focusing on how well machines can mirror or imitate human reactions, thus inadvertently privileging human emotions as better and more desirable than those of the planet’s other beings. This scholarship inadvertently creates and reproduces a hierarchy of the human through a politics of emotional exceptionalism. In contrast, my essay explores how reading with the medieval offers surprising resonances with concerns about power in the posthuman and reveals human privilege as constructed through political inequalities instantiated by the violation of emotional norms. Power in the medieval and in the post-Anthropocene is structured around emotional violation, through an erotics of grief that privileges human violence and transgression of the rights of other beings and fantasizes that some human emotions are more valid than those of other beings. Examining the extremes of privilege in medieval culture illuminates the relation between emotions and human privilege in current discourses around AI, technology, and the human. The essay considers how and why grief is eroticized in service of power in the medieval period (in texts such as Tristan et Yseut and Daphne and Apollo) and how emotional exceptionalism naturalizes elite human power in pop culture (as in the privileged human violence enacted over cyborgs in recent films such as Ex Machina and Her). In short, I explore how reading with the medieval questions the hypermodernist assumptions undergirding much of the thinking on cyborgs and power in work by Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti, and Judith Halberstam.

The article appears in Digital Philology 10.1 (Spring 2021).

Prof. Moore