Unlikely Comparison and the Transdisciplinarity of Comparative Literature: The Boundaries of Gender, Technoscience, Literature, and Visual Culture

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The dissertation argues that current shifts in the humanities provide opportunities to transform comparative literature into a more transdisciplinary field that more fully attends to the agencies of knowledge work. In particular, comparative literature should center the intersections of the humanities and sciences, and feminist technoscience approaches in particular, to theorize and pursue "unlikely comparisons" that shed light on current debates on difference, disciplinarity, narrative, and the changing role of literary studies and the humanities more broadly. To illustrate the role of feminist technoscience in making agency-aware unlikely comparisons, the dissertation considers the resonances between the paintings of Remedios Varo and the philosophy-physics of Karen Barad. It is then shown that cyberfeminist narratives about Ada Lovelace reveal that networks, time travel, and emergent behaviors are necessary models for understanding the multiple and complex connections between Ada Lovelace and today's digital women, and for understanding the agencies of knowledge work more generally. The dissertation then argues for a more transdisciplinary, comparative, and "polyrhythmic" undergraduate curriculum, providing specific proposals for coursework and pedagogical materials. The sum of these arguments demonstrate that further theorization of "unlikely comparison," directed by the central questions of feminist technoscience, would enable comparative literary studies to more fully engage with the pressures and possibilities of complex and rapidly changing political, ethical, and intellectual connections and responsibilities.