John Plotz's 2018-19 Newhouse project, “Nonhuman Being: Post-Darwinian Naturalism, Fantasy, and Science Fiction,” attempts to trace the legacy of Darwinian natural materialism in the near-simultaneous emergence of prose fantasy, science fiction and Naturalist literature. All three genres explore the nonhuman within human existence, making them bellwethers of changing human relations to the object as well as the animal world. Studying them together sheds light on the vernacular “thing theory” that in many ways persists into the present, subtly shaping various forms of “posthumanism” and “object-oriented ontology.” Studying the rise of fantasy, science fiction and naturalism together—a novel approach, building on excellent recent scholarship about each separate genre—clarifies not only that thing theory’s origins but also its contemporary afterlife.
Plotz’s books include The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics (2000), Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (2008), and Semi-Detached: The Aesthetics of Virtual Experience since Dickens (2018). He and his partner Lisa live in Brookline with two children and three chickens.