Renaissance Posthumanism

Renaissance Posthumanism

Joseph Campana and Scott Maisano

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780823269556

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

This collection of essays argues that contemporary “critical posthumanisms,” even as they distance themselves from particular iconic representations of the Renaissance (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man), may in fact be moving ever closer to ideas of “the human” as at once embedded and embodied in, evolving with, and de-centered amid a weird tangle of animals, environments, and vital materiality in works from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. Too often contemporary work in posthumanism presents itself as a rejection of Renaissance humanism when what it rejects is a straw man—albeit a straw Vitruvian Man—that bears little, if any, resemblance to Renaissance humanism qua the skeptical, critical, and irreverent close readings of ancient texts and cultures. Ironically what is being repressed, fantasized, and evaded in these accounts is nothing other than Renaissance humanism itself. Reducing Renaissance humanism to a handful of icons and caricatures risks diminishing its potential theoretical purchase on the past, in addition to the present and future. Renaissance Posthumanism, too, reconsiders traditional languages of humanism and the human but it does so not by nostalgically enshrining or triumphantly superseding humanism’s past but rather by revisiting and interrogating them. Seeking those patterns of thought and practice that allow us to reach beyond the pre- and post- of recent thought, the contributors to this collection focus on moments where Renaissance humanism seems to depart and differ from itself.