Lesson 2

Early Ideas of the Posthuman and Human Evolution

Laura Søvsø Thomasen

In this lesson we consider the key developments in theories on human evolution from Darwin to ‘The Modern Synthesis’. We ask how human evolution was perceived from mid-nineteenth century to c. 1930, and why evolution deals with the past and present but not the future. We also discuss a popular fin de siècle notion of this period, namely that everything is coming to an end and the human race is degenerating rather than evolving. By looking at early posthuman ideas in H. G. Wells, Julian Huxley, and Samuel Butler, we ask which grand narrative(s) of the post-human evolution we find in this period’s science and culture, focusing on the relation between individual and species, body and machine, evolution and emergence.



  • Write a short essay (200-300 words) about Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871) and have in mind the following questions/themes:
    • How does Bulwer-Lytton’s narrative describe the human in relation to the other race and/or the body?
    • Does Bulwer-Lytton’s narrative express early posthuman ideas and, if so, how?
  • After posting your own assignment on the course blog, find at least two other posts and reply to them in a critically engaging way in a 50-100 word comment. One of these comments must be made to a post from a group member.
  • Assignment due: October 17 at 12am (Danish time)