Bulwer-Lytton’s narrative describes a precarious human species as “the child (of the nether valley) could have killed me as easily as a man can kill a bird or a butterfly”. The child can fly – the human narrator cannot. It brings associations to the German writer Herman Hesse’s fantasy Pictor’s Metamorphoses (1922) in which the creatures have in them all aspects of life. That is mineral, animal, plant and human qualities.
As Braidotti writes in her book Metamorphoses. Toward Materialist Theory of Becoming (2002: 118-119) “Becoming woman/animal/insect” is an affect that flows pushing the subject to his or her limits, in a constant encounter with external different others.
At some point in Bulwer-Lytton’s narrative, the human is seen as ‘some rare wild animal’ – the nether world in which the narrator is absorbed can be seen as un-doing his civilized and ‘all-to-human’ coat and reflects other aspects of his being.
In that sense the writer expresses early posthumanist ideas of transgressing dualistic ways of categorizing naturecultures (Haraway, 2003) – though in the writer’s Atlantis like imagination it is a future, a coming or becoming race, not a lived reality for the narrator of the story. I associated to Danish writer H. C. Andersen’s little match girl (first published in 1845) who in a dying glimpse sees a warm idealized world, because what is told by Bulwer-Lytton is also a harsh critique of the human and a hymn for an angelic superhuman order.
Finally, a posthumanist understanding of Vril as a larger than life energy form can be reflected by the concept of Zoe, ‘ life’s pure inhuman force’, (Braidotti, 2002: 132-133), a poetic vitalist and materialist reconfiguration of how to move on from here, an affirmative and egalitarian take on posthuman subjectivities, becoming cosmos-politans, ontologically relational beings of the world.
Braidotti, R. (2002): Metamorphoses. Toward a materialist theory of becoming. Polity Press
Haraway, D. (2003): The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Prickly Paradigm Press