Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeremy F. Green

Second Advisor

Paul Youngquist

Third Advisor

Kelly Hurley

Fourth Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Fifth Advisor

Teresa Toulouse

Abstract

Nonhuman intelligence is a topic of vigorous inquiry in the sciences, but how is it broached by the humanities -- especially in literary narrative -- and what does its method of presentation have to teach us about how the relationship between the sciences and the humanities is changing? To explore answers to these questions, I have established a new grouping of literary works, called "cybertech", and defined it as bounded within the system of fictional narratives which ask the following questions: 1) What can ken (be familiar with something or someone); 2) What is the range of what can be kenned?; and 3) How is what is kenned demarcated? By taking five contemporary novels as keystone examples of this grouping, I conclude that a thought experiment uniting the sciences and the humanities -- that which contemplates whether synthetic intelligences, and/or nonhuman biological organisms, might be able to develop "human-equivalent" consciousness -- is rich with possibilities for potential insights into human consciousness itself: what it is, how it works, and what the range is of what it can experience.

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