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Doris Lessing and the Forming of History$
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Kevin Brazil, David Sergeant, and Tom Sperlinger

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414432

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414432.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 25 September 2021

A Catastrophic Universe: Lessing, Posthumanism and Deep History

A Catastrophic Universe: Lessing, Posthumanism and Deep History

(p.164) Chapter 12 A Catastrophic Universe: Lessing, Posthumanism and Deep History
Doris Lessing and the Forming of History

Clare Hanson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores the shift in Lessing’s work from social realism to an experimental approach to genre and argues that it is inseparable from the expansion of the scope of her later fiction, from the specifics of contemporary history to a concern with evolutionary and planetary time. A recurring tension in her writing is identified, between a trans-humanist ethos (expressed through the protagonists’ engagement with the prospect of ‘enhancing’ humanity) and post-humanist perspectives that offer a radical challenge to human exceptionalism. Taking the figure of the evolutionary ‘throwback’ in The Fifth Child (1988) as a starting point, the chapter argues that the novel opens up a landscape in which ‘the human’ in its current incarnation is no longer the structuring norm. It goes on to consider the relationship between humans and other animals in Lessing’s work, charting an emerging critique of anthropocentric ideology and an innovative mapping of inter-species subjectivities. Drawing on the neo-vitalist philosophy of Rosi Braidotti and Elizabeth Grosz, it argues that a post-humanist perspective is articulated in Lessing’s fiction, but that it is complicated by a transhumanism which is in part impelled by her continued commitment to Sufism. The chapter concludes by locating Lessing’s space fiction and late fables such as Mara and Dann (1999) in the context of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s concept of ‘deep history’, an approach that he argues is mandatory at a time of planetary crisis.

Keywords:   Doris Lessing, post-humanism, evolution, The Fifth Child, Mara and Dann

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