The paradoxical protagonist in speculative fiction

Michael Grantham

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis contends that many of the antiheroic protagonists presented in speculative fiction represent a paradoxical mix of both human and transhuman. These protagonists, along with the social realities in which they exist, provide an alternative medium for the exploration of the dynamic and complex relationship between individuals, society, technoscientific development and normative moral and social convention. As transhumans, protagonists examined throughout this thesis challenge the distinctions between previously juxtaposed concepts such as human and machine, biology and technology. Similarly, the antiheroic nature of such protagonists, through their rejection of normative moral and social convention, challenges and destabilises the boundaries separating right from wrong, morality from immorality.

The thesis traces the origins of the antiheroic transhuman back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and discusses key points in its development through consideration of Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John (1935), Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta (1982-1989), Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (1986-1987), and Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy - Altered Carbon (2001), Broken Angels (2003) and Woken Furies (2005). The thesis extends the ground of previous examinations of the literary antihero such as Victor Brombert’s In Praise of Antiheroes (2002) and provides insight into the generalised fear and anxiety surrounding the emergence of transhumanism and the possibility of transhuman beings.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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