UC New Media Research Directory
Milburn, Colin
February 14th, 2007 under Faculty

Assistant Professor, English Department; Member, Science & Technology Studies Program, UC Davis
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Colin MilburnColin Milburn is Assistant Professor of English and a member of the Science & Technology Studies Program at UC Davis. His research focuses on the intersections of science, literature, and media technologies. He is especially interested in science fiction; Gothic horror; the history of biology; the history of physics; comic books, film, and new media; and posthumanism. His book about the onrushing era of nanotechnology, Nanovision: Engineering the Future, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. He is now completing a related project about nanoscience and videogames, while also working on a book about monsters and abnormal organisms in the biological sciences, currently entitled Monstrology. At UC Davis, he is affiliated with the Critical Theory and Cultural Studies programs, as well as the research cluster in Technoscience, Culture, and the Arts.

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The breakdown of humanism accelerates through increasing collisions between flesh and technology, where the interface mediates the emergence of new posthuman spaces, hybrid realities of the machinic, the virtual, and the meaty. Where bodies bleed with machineries, where science bleeds with science fiction, the secure enveloping tissues of the human subject—cognitive, corporeal, and otherwise—rip apart. Within these wounds, these traumatic crash sites that become ever more refined through technical reductions approaching the quantum limits of fabrication, the natural and the constructed, the human and the nonhuman, wash together in a molecular flow. This confluence and convergence at the nanoscale thus makes possible a radical reshaping of reality, atom by atom. A reshaping of reality that, while still a fiction, is no less already a fact.

Nanovision: Engineering the Future (Duke University Press, forthcoming 2008)

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To explain this more precisely, just as Bloom acknowledges in Omens of Millennium that the very prescience of the Gnostic texts would not have allowed them to disappear entirely (and for their persistence, it must be noted, he is joyful), the prescience of Frankenstein similarly renders it a dangerous text to be used and/or abused. Frankenstein’s prescience resides in Mary Shelley’s brilliant dialectic of reality-based faith and scientific dreams. Simultaneously, this dialectic demands attention and theorization and it denies the possibility of polemical resolution. Thus, Shelley astonishingly narrates a meta-prognostication on the formula of science fiction as the imaginative production which can lead to reproductions inside and outside of texts even as she is installing the spark of life into the first of its species. From this critical perspective, even the most conservative efforts to ossify Frankenstein into a technophobic cultural cliché will, like Victor’s pastoral optimism in trying to forget about the creature amidst the sublime Alpine landscape, not succeed in bringing forth the good spirits (whether God or a sacred “Nature”) they summon. Rather, every cautionary invocation of Frankenstein cannot help but give more life, as both Harold Bloom and that rebellious replicant Roy Baty are both fond of saying, to precisely the abhorrent productions and reproductions they desperately wish to kill.
From “Dismembering the Cautionary Cliché: Re-reading the Warnings in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”