In the influential treatise How We Became Posthuman (1999), Katherine Hayles posited that we have only just begun to comprehend that conscious agency is constituted by the same “chaotic dynamics and emergent processes” by which consciousness, the organism, and the environment are constituted. The posthuman is symbiotic with information of many kinds; the posthuman is characterized by distributed cognition, dynamic partnerships with machines and nature. Individuals are not objects with borders but living, moving environments: the journey from axon to dendrite, the human tide on a subway platform.
I’m interested in how this set of developments comes to bear on the field of the humanities, particularly how it changes the ways we understand and teach literature. For example, how do texts manifest collective behaviours and collective intelligence? To what degree will new ontologies define the literary, and to what ends? I'm especially interested in object-oriented ontology, an emerging philosophical movement dedicated to nonanthropocentric forms of realism, whereby human being not only not the centre of perception and meaning, it also isn’t even that important for us humans—particularly as we become aware of increasingly limited vision and increasingly permeable boundaries.