French posthumanist fiction – Michel Houellebecq

Working paper by Mara Magda Maftei

This paper deals with French posthumanist fiction, namely two novels written by Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles (1998) and The Possibility of an Island (2005).

In order to explain the context that produces posthumanist fiction, I begin by presenting the difference between posthumanism and transhumanism (one of the many contemporary currents of posthumanism). Transhumanism feeds on science fiction literature that had invented the concepts used nowadays by transhumanists (cyborg, cyberspace, hacker, android and artificial intelligence, etc.). Science fiction precedes transhumanism and it is then the latter that feeds posthumanist fiction.

The purpose of my paper is to demonstrate that posthumanist literature constitutes a separate category that - even if it feeds on science fiction, as well as on dystopia - has its own writing codes. The two novels of Michel Houellebecq offer an emblematic example of such “speculative critical fictions”.

The author

Mara Magda Maftei is Professor at the University of Economic Studies in Bucharest and associate researcher at  the Observatoire des écritures contemporaines françaises et francophones at the University of Paris Nanterre. She was a visiting scholar at the Collège d'études mondiales, FMSH. She has a doctorate in French literature (2009) and a Ph.D. in the History of Economic Thought (2007). She is a literary critic and essayist and has published numerous books and articles internationally, including two booksin French: Cioran et le rêve d’une génération perdue, 2013, l'Harmattan, (philosophical opening collection) and Un Cioran inédit. Pourquoi intrigue-t-il ?, 2016, Yves Michalon Publisher, Fauves Editions. She is currently co-directing a research project entitled "Transhumanisme et posthumanisme entre réalités et imaginaires" at the University of Paris-Nanterre.

The text

This article largely echoes the communication presented at the Observatoire des écritures contemporaines françaises & francophones at the University Paris Nanterre, March 20, 2019.
Citing this document: Mara Magda Maftei, La fiction posthumaniste - Michel Houellebecq -, FMSH-WP-2020-146, septembre 2020.
Published at 28 September 2020