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“Through a Glass Brightly: A Posthuman Re-reading of Fausta Cialente’s Cortile a Cleopatra”


“Through a Glass Brightly: A Posthuman Re-reading of Fausta Cialente’s Cortile a Cleopatra” begins by arguing that posthumanism is both a new paradigm in the humanities and the theoretically ill-defined sensibility of the Anthropocene.  A pressing invitation to reimagine what it means to be human that is traversing simultaneously scholarship, political activism and popular culture, posthumanism can also be seen as a powerful lens that colors our perception of the past. While I make no claim for the historical continuity of a tradition of environmental consciousness and do not wish to project onto the past the philosophical stance of today’s posthumanism, my reading of Fausta Cialente’s 1936 novel Cortile a Cleopatra builds on contemporary feminist ecocritics’ and posthuman philosophers’ impatience with the legacy of humanism. Joining a new generation of scholars who bring to their construction of modernism a nuanced understanding of the continuum of the bond between the human and non-human, I argue that revisiting the novel through the hyperopic lens of a posthuman sensibility uncovers the outsize presence of the non-human and enables new interpretation of it. While also partaking in the modernist attack on realism, Cialente’s consistent attention to the non-human – animals, the weather, the material environment – also reads as an alternative figuration of the human and a valuable iteration of the “aesthetics of care” furthered by Josephine Donovan, as “a participatory epistemology” of the human animal bond.

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