Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction

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I stubbed my toe on sentences like "The insistent figurations of Baudrillard, Cronenberg, and Dick represent a stunning hypostatization A good editor should have caught these clunkers--but then, Duke University Press seems to encourage leaden prose. With that off my chest, let me further state unhesitatingly that Terminal Identity is well worth reading and impressive for its range of reference and synthesis of ideas. Bukatman's main argument hinges on the fact that electronic technology is invisible and therefore hard to represent and to understand.

Moreover, "it has become increasingly difficult to separate the human from the technological" 2.

In the Information Age, it has fallen to SF to narrate the new subject of "terminal identity. As do many other contemporary critics, Bukatman considers SF in the broadest sense, encompassing not only literature but also a variety of other media, including film, video, comics, computer graphics, computer games, virtual reality, theme parks, and even what Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.

Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction | UVA Library | Virgo

This last concept is extremely useful, for in the age of the critic as creative artist, it makes sense to read an SF author such as Dick not through but alongside the surreal, hyperbolic ravings of Baudrillard. If we see the former not only as SF novelist and the latter not only as theorist but both instead as visionary writers attempting to create metaphors adequate to a new reality, then they become complementary figures, aspects of the same phenomenon although I'd take Dick over Baudrillard any day.


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Terminal Identity is divided into an Introduction and five thematic sections Terminal Image; 2. Terminal Space; 3. Terminal Penetration; 4. Terminal Flesh; and 5. The Introduction argues that new technology always creates a crisis in the culture. In the electronic era, we are living with the breakdown of the distinction between man and machine. Much of recent SF--cyberpunk in particular--attempts to construct a new human being that can exist within cyberspace. The SF writers he considers--primarily William S.

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Burroughs, Ballard, Dick, Tiptree, Gibson, and Sterling--all write "at the boundaries of human meaning and value" 9. Bukatman considers SF, in Delany's terms, as a form of language play that creates continual defamiliarization and demands an active reader.

The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction

In SF film, the visual parallel to such language play is special effects. In s SF film, it becomes harder to define the human or to assume that the human is superior. Section 1, "Terminal Image," discusses what Bukatman calls "the science fiction of the spectacle," some works of Dick, Ballard, and the comic book artist Howard Chaykin that deal with "image addiction" to the televisual image 17 or works of Dick, Burroughs, and Cronenberg that concern the "image virus" 18 in which simulation takes over and replaces reality.

Section 2, "Terminal Space," concentrates on representations of electronic space in Blade Runner, Neuromancer, and TRON and on what Delany calls "paraspaces" parallel spaces and Brian McHale terms "zones," narrative spaces where "language, rationality, and subjectivity" 18 break down, as in the "trip" sequence in the film Section 3, "Terminal Penetration," concerns "the cybernaut --the subject in cyberspace" Here Bukatman discusses the new world of virtual reality imaging, computer games, hackers, and cyberpunks, represented once again by Neuromancer and TRON and also by "the hypertechnologized spaces of Walt Disney World" Section 4, "Terminal Flesh," reverses direction from the human penetrating technology to technology penetrating the human in the form of the cyborg.

Real bodies in real initiates the mutual deaths of the subject and of representation. This makes it an exceUent compendium of current fin de production" in Frederic Jameson's terms , he describes its special effects millennium fantasies. One may well Wish, however, that Bukatman had taken as a popularized version of a number of avant-garde techniques, including more distance from the mythologies ofcyberspace and virtual subjectivities; the grid-like and perceptual structures of La Region Central and of minimalist the insistence of writing beyond the threshold of the modern negates that sculpture.

It can thus be situated in film history as an exemplary "linking very reflexive gesture that Bazin, even in the midst of penning his "myth," of cinematic vision to the technologies of modernity". And so TRON confidendy took for granted. For Bukatman, total cinema is here and we launches the subject of perception into cyberspace.

The film may be the are in it. In fact, postmodern subject. The "virtual subject" is one which exists which pervades Terminal Identity. If for Merleau-Ponty "being" utopian impulses of modernism and genre fiction, and a demonstration of consisted of being a body-in-the-world, being a body as well as a a pervasive postmodern BaudriUardian dystopia. What Bukatman says of consciousness, this gestalt of subjectivity undergoes a kind of exponential Videodrome, positioning it as a film "of postmodernism", not "about it", can heightening in techno-culture, such that "the human is inserted into the be argued in many ways of Terminal Identity itself.

In New York's St. Mark's terminal space as a pure, totalizing gaze. Catherine Russell, Narrative Mortality: Death, Closure, and New Like the Lacanian immobilized child, the virtual subject is reconstituted in the projection of self into the "objective"-the reality of cyberspace Wave Cinemas. The terminal subject, , pp. The question of gender is raised late in Minnesota Press, ]. Although Russell does not refer to the earlier the game-as an afterthought to the discussion of the body which "must book, her goal of "shifting film-theoretical discourse away from the space become a cyborg to retain its presence in the world.

These are techno-culture, but the only women in cyberspace are those who feel the certainly not the only voices currently pushing film theory in this direction, loss of the human; they have not been fully projected into a new form of but it is difficult to imagine two. I will thus subjectivity. The "surrender of the subject" is'a theme that Bukatman finds try to bring out the distinctive qualities of Russell's argument by comparing onlyin the single example of feminist sci-fi that he cites the writer James the two books in order to suggest some of the issues at stake in what Tiptree , Donna Haraway's cyborg manifesto is one of the last major stops appears to be a growing trend in film theory.

Shaviro celebrates a cinema in which "the drives and enjoyments If every film genre demands its own methodological treatment, of the body" threaten "the safety and stability of the ego," and his Terminal Ickntity offers a definitive formulation of science fiction within a exemplary texts are films of "excess" by directors like David Cronenberg, philosophical framework of techno-culture. Weare a long way from Jerry Lewis, and Andy Warhol A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition.

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The Metamorphic Body in Science Fiction

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