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Female Ageing and Technological Reproduction: Feminist Transhuman Embodiments in Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died A Lot

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Technologies of Feminist Speculative Fiction

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Abstract

The visual power of the female-cyborg metaphor has been sensationally exploited in science fiction by rendering transhuman pictures of the female body and mind that often perpetuate old patriarchal clichés. The transhuman cyborg-woman is thus embodied as an improved female young, heterosexual, white, hypersexualized, and disposable commodity. Jasper Fforde’s novel The Woman Who Died A Lot (2012) unfolds a self-critical approach to feminist discourse that presses on the issue of female ageing as it intersects with the transhumanist construction of female biological/technological sexual desire and reproductive potential by representing ageing women as disabled.

“Every revolution will be crip if it lives long enough”

—Robert McRuer

“What diverse capacities must silently exist? And how many lie waiting for aggregation, the output behaviors and found functions one can’t possibly conceive of ahead of time?”

—David Wolach

“Every revolution will be crip if it lives long enough”

—Robert McRuer

“What diverse capacities must silently exist? And how many lie waiting for aggregation, the output behaviors and found functions one can’t possibly conceive of ahead of time?”

—David Wolach

The Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation under grant PID2019-106855 GB-I00, and the Andalusian Regional Government under grant P20-000008 supported the writing of this work.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Humanware has been defined by Sherryl Vint (2007) as “the notion that human workers can be treated as just another component in industrial systems, a marketplace logic that insists upon subordinating the human ‘components’ to the logic and pace of the machine” (24).

  2. 2.

    In the context of disability studies, David Pfeiffer (2002) makes a similar claim about the humanist and poststructuralist paradigms by arguing that they produce merely inferential, not experiential knowledge like required to explore the embodied specificities of people with disabilities (14).

  3. 3.

    My italics. In these passages, Fforde exploits pronominal alternation to complicate the relations between transhuman and disabled identities in the Cartesian frame.

  4. 4.

    Bakhtin’s (1965) description of the grotesque body in Rabelais’ work, Benjamin’s (1935) concern for originals in the age of technological reproduction, and Baudrillard’s (1987) reflections on hyperreality are twentieth-century precedents of some of the most salient ideas discussed by transhumanism: the exhilarating, baroque monstrosity of the cyborg as described by Haraway, the promise of eternity in endless technological reproduction, and the virtualization of lived experience in Kurtzweil’s (2005) notion of Singularity.

  5. 5.

    This is not entirely true in Haraway’s case, since she specifically warns against the dangerous possibilities of cyborgian fusions, whereby to “be feminized is to be made extremely vulnerable; able to be disassembled, reassembled, exploited as a reserve labor force” (1985, 86). However, her survivalist advocacy of pollution still relies much on the intimacy and friendliness of prosthetic devices (97) and the pleasure we find in using them (99), as she disregards that they are always already designed to perform a specific function to meet a specific purpose.

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Correspondence to Miriam Fernández-Santiago .

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Fernández-Santiago, M. (2022). Female Ageing and Technological Reproduction: Feminist Transhuman Embodiments in Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died A Lot. In: Vint, S., Buran, S. (eds) Technologies of Feminist Speculative Fiction. Palgrave Studies in Science and Popular Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-96192-3_14

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