Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Arts and Humanities
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
© 2023 Laura LS Bauer
Female pleasure, Narrative desire, Narratology, Post-human future, Science fiction
English Language and Literature
This dissertation explores the complex relationship between an expanded narratological theory of narrative desire, inseparable in its relation to evolution and biological reproduction, and the future survival of humanity imagined across the narrative structures of three 21st-century works of dystopian science fiction. By examining the genre's potential to address species survival specifically through female forms of desire identified as narrative recurrence, prolonged duration, and emotional resolution, this study concurrently develops a metatextual methodology that cultivates the overlooked liminal space of quiescence. This analytical framework emphasizes narrative structure over theme-based analysis to unlock the radical imagination present in the texts by highlighting the challenges of narrativizing a post-human future in Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect 3, and Octavia Butler's Parable of the Trickster.
The reimagined television series Battlestar Galactica self-consciously poses questions regarding its own structural design. A moment of quiescence, positioned after the end and before the beginning of a narrative cycle in the epilogue, exists as a phase of unlimited potentiality beyond the activity of the diegetic text. In Mass Effect 3, the third installment of the massively successful video game franchise, the protests of dissatisfied gamers resulted in the creation of new ending options, revealing how quiescence can also be understood as the space surrounding the text as paratextual elements, existing adjacent to but separate from the main text, that directly influence interpretation and meaning. Finally, the archival materials of the unfinished book Parable of the Trickster, held at the Huntington Library and written by acclaimed science fiction author Octavia Butler, offers insights into quiescence as a location that exists akin to this pre-textual space. The archives reveal Butler’s struggle with severe writer’s block as a testament to the challenges and foreboding nature of envisioning humanity's future as it pertains to evolution and species survival.
By incorporating female sexuality into narrative desire, I propose that reviving this theory may offer value in contemporary structural analysis of plots, especially since the concept of quiescence allows us to explore aspects beyond the confines of the diegetic text in a world where narrative is becoming ever more interactive, multi-modal, intertextual, and transmedial. Science fiction during this era of convergence is also seeing a rapid transformation. As humanity increasingly faces existential threats such as artificial intelligence, pandemics, climate change, and nuclear apocalypse, innovative strategies and skills for survival must be developed that transcend our anthropocentric limitations. Although human reproduction is traditionally based on biological foundations that involve erotic desire, the reality of human survival - and reproduction - is rapidly evolving. The development of non-erotic desires such as scientific literacy, global cooperation, and ethical reasoning will become increasingly essential for species survival and, as this occurs, alterations to our human biology may fundamentally reshape our narrative constructs and forms of narrative desire. Ultimately, these texts reveal attempts at post-human forms of relationality within a genre of possibilities that self-consciously struggles to answer what form human survival may take in the future.
Bauer, Laura L. S.. (2023). Female Pleasure and Theories of Desire in Narrative Structure: Evolution, Futurity, and Species Survival in the Post-Human and Science Fiction Imaginary. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 716. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/716.