Lesson 4

A Divided Humanity

Johannes Poulsen

In this lesson we take a look at the divisions running across the spectrum of (post)humanity by analyzing works of popular culture as a distinct form of posthuman discourse. With special emphasis on the X-Men comics as the most iconic modern mutant story, we discuss how the idea of the X-Men came to be, how the visions of mutant kind evolved over time in the comics, and how American social politics becomes a frame for thinking about humanity’s future. We will then attempt a mapping of science fiction, horror and fantasy as forms of ‘multispecies fiction’, showing 1) that thinking about the posthuman as a divided humanity through genre fiction connects us to previous eras of human experience where we essentially thought of the world as multispecies thorough religious cosmologies, and 2) how that alerts us to many of the pitfalls of our imminent posthuman horizon, but also provides us with ideas for how we could live and think and feel in a world of posthuman emergence. In conclusion, we draw a line from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu-figure to Tolkien and then X-Men: many of the multispecies scenarios of popular culture are inspiring but unlikely. The prospect or a world where some humans have been augmented through biotechnology and prostheses, leaving “the rest” of humanity behind, however, is much less improbable.


  • Stefan Herbrechter & Ivan Callus: What Is a Posthumanist Reading? Journal Article in Angelaki, Vol. 13, Issue 1, Pages 95 – 111, 2008
  • H.P. Lovecraft: The Shadow Out of Time, novella available in of the (very inexpensive) e-book versions of his collected works on Amazon, iBooks etc.
  • Warren Ellis: At The Zoo, short story printed in Nature #408, p. 295, 2000 (link:

Read the two pieces of fiction before watching the video lecture as that will enable you to reflect on how the concepts from the lecture can be applied to those texts. Read the article before doing the assignment, as it can serve as an inspiration for your comments on the material you choose to analyze. Think about what ways of thinking about the the future of humankind through popular culture a “posthumanist reading” doesn’t facilitate. How can we criticize Herbrechter and Callus’ arguments, and what can we learn from their approach?


  • Annotated link or reference  (e.g. a link to a video or website for a game or film, a reference to a novel/comic or other work of popular culture or even a scholarly work) with a short text (50-100 words) that represents an aspect of the challenge to human unity in popular culture before the end of Tuesday, November 1st. Add at least two tags to your assignment (themes, archetypes etc.).
  • Comment on at least two other posts before the end of Wednesday, November 2nd. The comment must contain at least one question for further exploration of the chosen topic of the author.