Imagining Bodies: Technological Visions of Displaced Minds in French Speculative Fiction

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Imagining Bodies: Technological Visions of Displaced Minds in French Speculative Fiction

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The twenty-first century has seen a dramatic shift in visual culture resulting from the expansion of digital technology, a shift that is still in progress today. A similarly seismic shift occurred in the mid-nineteenth century, with the introduction of photography, and around the fin-de-siècle, with the emergence of cinema. A number of scholars (including Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Virilio, Jonathan Crary, Friedrich Kittler, and Vivian Sobchack) have argued that technological changes in visual media constitute new ways of seeing and consequently new ways of being in the world. Imagining Bodies examines the ways that these changes in visual culture emerge in representations of the body and of vision in French speculative fiction from around the time of the Third Republic. In particular, this thesis discusses visual paradigms associated with photography and film around the time of their emergence, and seeks reflections and echoes of those paradigms in textual descriptions of bodily experience. Such descriptions are especially suggestive in fictional works that problematize the relationship between body and mind, either by imagining a mind transposed or transplanted into a new and strange body, or imagining what lies beyond the limits of human sensory perception by removing minds from bodies altogether. By recognizing the ways that visual technology informs and structures our understanding of our world and our selves, we can better recognize the effects of new visual technology and their importance for our contemporary period.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2019. Major: French. Advisor: Christophe Wall-Romana. 1 computer file (PDF); ii, 196 pages.

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Mitchell, Lia. (2019). Imagining Bodies: Technological Visions of Displaced Minds in French Speculative Fiction. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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