Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

“Human Form Did Not Make A Human Creature”

Autism and the Male Human Machine in Marge Piercy’s He, She and It

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2017), 11, (4), 423–441.

Abstract

The article analyzes Marge Piercy’s cyborg novel, He, She and It (1991). Resonating with contemporary concerns about autism, men and masculinity, He, She and It is a feminist narrative that appropriates the popular science fiction trope of the autistic male human machine in order to critique patriarchal culture in late capitalist society. However, in her novel, Piercy’s representation of disability is problematic because it perpetuates stereotypes of autism in order to portray men as damaged by patriarchy. Furthermore, in opposition to the damaging effects of patriarchy, Piercy draws upon the feminist science fiction trope of the male human machine/robot lover in order to propose the benefice of female intervention into men, masculinity, and patriarchal technology, in which men are rehabilitated and made amenable through an imagined alternate human machine personhood. The article critically evaluates the representation of disability in Piercy’s cyborg narrative, arguing that although Piercy rather tantalizingly explores the value and utopian possibilities of her human machine’s autistic difference, it is nonetheless a representation that is based upon an ableist feminist polemic of patriarchy in order to perfect the human male, which ultimately affirms Piercy’s own explicit rejection of an autistic humanity.

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Baron-Cohen, Simon. “The extreme male-brain theory of autism.” Neurodevelopment Disorder. Ed. H. Tager-Flusberg. Cambridge, Mass: MIT P. 1999. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. 1–68. The extreme male-brain theory of autism Neurodevelopment Disorder 1 68 Google Scholar

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Covino, William. A. “Grammars of Transgression: Golems, Cyborgs and Mutants.” Rhetoric Review 14.2 (1996): 355–73. Print. Grammars of Transgression: Golems, Cyborgs and Mutants Rhetoric Review 14.2 355 73 Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London and New York: Verso, 1995. Print. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. “The End of Identity Politics and the Beginning of Dismodernism: On Disability as an Unstable Category.” The Disability Studies Reader. 2006. 2nd Edition. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York and London: Routledge, 2006. 231–42. Print. The End of Identity Politics and the Beginning of Dismodernism: On Disability as an Unstable Category The Disability Studies Reader 231 42 Google Scholar

Dinello, Daniel.Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. Austin: U of Texas P, 2005. Print. Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology Google Scholar

Ebert, Teresa L. Ludic Feminism and After: Postmodernism, Desire, and Labor In Late Capitalism. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996. Print. Ludic Feminism and After: Postmodernism, Desire, and Labor In Late Capitalism Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability In American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability In American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory.” NWSA Journal 14.3 (2002): 1–32. Web. 1 Aug. 2015. Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory NWSA Journal 14.3 1 32 Google Scholar

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Gosling, Ju. “Pride.” Web. 16 Sep. 2009. Pride Google Scholar

Graham, Elaine L. Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 2002. Print. Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture Google Scholar

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Halliwell, Martin and Andy Mousley. Critical Humanisms: Humanist/Anti-Humanist Dialogues. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2003. Print. Critical Humanisms: Humanist/Anti-Humanist Dialogues Google Scholar

Haney II, William S. “Cyborg Revelation: Marge Piercy’s He, She and It.” Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Posthuman. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. 149–67. Print. Cyborg Revelation: Marge Piercy’s He, She and It Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Posthuman 149 67 Google Scholar

Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Socialist Review. 80 (1985): 65–108. Rpt. in The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory. Ed. Steve Siedman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. 82–115. Print. A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s Socialist Review 80 65 108 Google Scholar

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. 1991. 9th Edition. London: Free Association Books Ltd, 2002. 149–81. Print. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature Google Scholar

Laidler, James R. “the ‘Refrigerator Mother’ Hypotheses of Autism.” 2004. Autism Watch. Web. 28 Sep. 2009. the ‘Refrigerator Mother’ Hypotheses of Autism Google Scholar

Lefanu, Sarah. In the Chinks of the World Machine. London: The Women’s Press, 1988. Print. In the Chinks of the World Machine Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2011. Print. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse Google Scholar

Mohr, Dunja M. “Cyborg and Cyb(hu)man: The Fine Line of Difference.” Virtual Minds: Congress of Ficticious Figures. Eds. Helene von Oldenburg and Andrea Sick. Bremen: Thealit, 2004. 120–33. Print. Cyborg and Cyb(hu)man: The Fine Line of Difference Virtual Minds: Congress of Ficticious Figures 120 33 Google Scholar

Murray, Stuart. Representing Autism: Culture, Narrative, Fascination. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2008. Print. Representing Autism: Culture, Narrative, Fascination Google Scholar

Murray, Stuart. Autism. New York and London: Routledge, 2012. Print. Autism Google Scholar

Piercy, Marge. He, She and It. New York: Fawcett Books, 1991. Print. He, She and It Google Scholar

Schoene, Berthold. “Serial Masculinity: Psychopathology and Oedipal Violence in Bret Eastons Ellis’s American Psycho.” Modern Fiction Studies 54.2 (2008): 378–97. Print. Serial Masculinity: Psychopathology and Oedipal Violence in Bret Eastons Ellis’s American Psycho Modern Fiction Studies 54.2 378 97 Google Scholar

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. (1818). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print. Frankenstein Google Scholar

Vlosopolos, Anca. “Technology as Eros’s dart: Cyborgs as Perfect (Male?) Lovers.” The International Review of Science Fiction 73 (1998): 59–66. Print. Technology as Eros’s dart: Cyborgs as Perfect (Male?) Lovers The International Review of Science Fiction 73 59 66 Google Scholar

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Author details

Smith, Sue