Julia Boll – The Object’s Voice: Literature’s Attempt to Create Subjectivity



Event Date: 26 September 2015
Barts Pathology Museum
Robin Brook Centre
West Smithfield
London EC1A 7BE


A cross-disciplinary Symposium at Barts Pathology Museum

Dr Julia Boll (Department of Literature, University of Konstanz) – The Object’s Voice: Literature’s Attempt to Create Subjectivity

In the 2011 London production of Nick Dear’s play Frankenstein the two actors playing the Creature and the allegedly mad scientist exchanged their roles every other night, thus emphasising how tightly bound the Creator is to his Creature, how close subject and object are, and how inescapably dependent on each other they are regarding the affirmation of their respective subjectivities. When considering Victor Frankenstein to be mad, it is vital to remember that, with madness, we also associate a limited culpability, a limited responsibility, response-ability. By allowing Frankenstein to step away into madness, we free him from an ethical responsibility for his actions, because we assume he is not capable of basing his decisions on ethical principles. The focus of this talk is the question of ethics in the context of responsibility and choice, the acknowledgement and denial of humanity, the recognition of the object of scientific inquiry, and how literature interrogates these matters. Drawing on texts such as Dear’s play, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (2005), Kathleen Jamie’s essay “Pathologies” (2012), Analogue Theatre’s 2011 production 2401 Objects and Marianne Boruch’s poetry collection Cadaver, Speak (2010/2014), as well as on Kelly Oliver’s theory of an ethics based on witnessing, I will show how contemporary literature and theatre explore the possibility of giving voice to and hearing the object of scientific enquiry and how questions of ethical responsibility towards society and humanity are addressed. I will also explore how literature and theatre imagine a potential state to enable a broader understanding of the complex ethical responsibilities encountered by scientists, the sciences, and a society relying on scientific progress.



Link to Dr Boll’s ‘The World of Science under the Literary Microscope’ project

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