Zwischen Mensch und Pflanze: Hybride Figurationen des Vegetabilen in Literarischen und Graphischen Texten des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBiological hybrids arise when organisms that usually do not belong together amalgamate. The most conceivable distance in this regard is likely the one found between humans and plants, their ‘radical other.’ Fictional human-plant hybrids such as the Green Man have been fueling our imagination since the Middle Ages, though they have experienced a particular boom in the early 20th and 21st centuries. This dissertation, based on these two historical foci and situated at the intersection of German literature, comic studies, and literary and cultural plant studies, maps out the paradigm shift in crisis discourses from the reference to the subject around 1900 to the focus on the collective in the new millennium.At the turn of the century, while the human subject is in crisis, a kind of plant subject emerges in botany: Natural philosopher Gustav Theodor Fechner postulates a vegetal soul that is equal to the human soul, botanist Alexander Braun reflects on the individual in the plant kingdom, and Charles Darwin discovers that plants react to light stimuli, gravity, and touch. Human-plant hybrids in early German science fiction literature like Kurd Laßwitz’s "Sternentau: Die Pflanze vom Neptunsmond" (1909) and Alfred Döblin’s "Berge Meere und Giganten" (1924) draw on this configuration and temporarily challenge human characters. In contrast, contemporary botanists showcase plants as quasi-social beings that develop friendships and care for each other while the climate disaster and post-humanist discourses fuel a crisis of the human collective. Against this discursive backdrop, comic books like Olivia Vieweg’s "Endzeit" (2018) and Frauke Berger’s "Grün" (2018/19) put forward human-plant hybrids that reflect the precarity of the collective and seek to overcome the humanist image of man through cross-species structures. Whereas human-plant hybrids around 1900 only temporarily populate their fictional worlds and fall apart at last, contemporary graphic literature proposes a long-term transformation of living organisms that undermines species boundaries and eventually raises the question of whether the concept of biological hybridity as such has become obsolete.
Degree ProgramGraduate College