Posthuman Masochist Tremors: A Literary Clinical Analysis of Three Works of Fiction that Depict Different Instances of the Implementation of Advanced Automated Technologies

2018 - 2020
Thesis to obtain the degree of Research Master in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht Universiteit
Supported by Government of Chile (Fondos de Cultura)

A contribution from the discipline of comparative literary studies to the study of artificial intelligence, this work demonstrates the importance of art and fiction to address current technological challenges.

This thesis is a comparative research between Gilles Deleuze’s theory of masochism, which is based on his clinical analysis of the novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and digital infrastructures of automated technology powered by mechanisms of artificial intelligence. This parallel is clinically examined through three works of  literary fiction that depict different instances of this association: The Lottery in Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Martha by Octavia Butler and The Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow. The present investigation exposes the masochistic nature of current relations between humans and digital technologies and positions the Deleuzian practice of literary clinical analysis as a crucial addition to scientific knowledge, especially to developments in advanced computer science. This research also concludes that the use of a framework of masochism in order to acknowledge human relations with devices of artificial intelligence is a productive strategy to collectively disavow the mandates of the corporate cybernetic realm and to design material futures of digital justice.

👯‍♀️ Rick Dolphijn (supervisor), Kári Driscoll (second reader) Link to utrecht University theses archive