“Thou Art The Thing Itself”: Early Modern Posthumanism In Shakespeare’s King Lear

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Courtney Lewallen (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Susan Staub

Abstract: Recent years have seen posthumanism used as a critical term in literary studies, enabling scholars to deconstruct conceptions of anthropocentrism as they appear in humanist thought. Taking the stance that humans have always already been posthuman, this thesis offers a posthumanist criticism of Shakespeare’s King Lear. With its representations of madness and old age, King Lear has long been hailed as an exploration of human nature. I argue, however, that King Lear in fact deconstructs humanist conceptions of the human/nonhuman hierarchy through the use of animal metaphors, and by presenting us with an unaccommodated form of human existence through depictions of Poor Tom. I examine the use of animal metaphorization as a means of subverting the very notion of a human/animal boundary within the play, while highlighting anxieties associated with maintaining the human/animal divide. I then discuss the treatment of Poor Tom as Lear’s specular other. These ideas culminate into a treatment of human embodiment as the limiting factor that must be overcome in order for humanity to finally transcend into the posthuman. By recognizing the inherently primordial state of human embodiment, we can transcend those limitations through the use of technology while minimizing exploitation of our natural surroundings.

Additional Information

Lewallen, C. (2016). “Thou Art The Thing Itself”: Early Modern Posthumanism In Shakespeare’s King Lear. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2016
Posthumanism, Shakespeare, King Lear, Ecocriticism, Animal studies

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