Carnival in space and time : shared metaphors of change in 'post neo-Darwinian' evolutionary theory and feminist science fiction

Tess Williams

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated] This thesis argues that representations of social and biological change in science fiction texts very frequently (possibly always) mirror current and past theories of evolution. Using Bakhtinian carnival, various feminist science theorists and ecofeminism, the thesis offers a critique of evolutionary theories as both scientific narratives and culturally inscripted stories of origins and change. A significant contention is that the politics of domination evident in Darwinist mutation/selectionism and neo-Darwinist genocentrism can be contextualised and modified by multidisciplinary stories such as epigenesis, punctuated equilibrium, panbiogeography, serial endosymbiosis theory, planetary homeostasis, and prebiotics. Identified in the thesis as 'post neo-Darwinian', these specific science narratives present multiple mechanisms of organic and inorganic change. They suggest that stories of interrelationship and cooperation ( organism to organism/organism to environment/environment to organism) are at least as important as those that support hierarchy and competition. When these post neo-Darwinist stories are mapped onto individual feminist science fiction novels by Joanna Russ, Joan Slonczewski and James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), the two different forms of story telling can be seen to have similar investments in mutable bodies, distributed agency, non-human subjectivities, the interactivity of organisms and environments, and interdisciplinary accounts of the world. In this thesis post neo-Darwinian evolutionary science and feminist science fiction texts read as both carnival and ecofeminist. Their shared metaphors of change are transgressive, subversive, ironic and - at times - farcical as they oscillate between the potentially frightening chaos of carnival and the potentially hopeful chaos of an ecofeminist synthesis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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