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Marie-Andrée Pellerin

Science Fictional Words: Language Fluidity and Fictive Words in Feminist Science Fiction

Beginn des PhD-Programms / Start of the PhD-Program​: WS 2017

Betreuung / Supervision: 
Gerda Lampalzer-Oppermann
Gudrun Rath

Language and its logos have been used from an anthropocentric humanism standpoint as a modality of exclusion, to elevate mankind above the “primitive” Other, who hasn’t been gifted with speech and the ability to produce meaning. The research is looking at how feminist science fiction writers identify language as a tool for exclusion and domination, and consequentially propose a posthumanist approach to language in its various attempts to communicate differently with the Other.

Considering the problematic rigidity of language and the absence of words to name marginalised concepts and beings, could science fiction be seen as a praxis of language disturbance? Feminist Science Fiction and fictive words coined in its literature will be seen here as a way to explore the concept of language fluidity, and therefore challenge the finitude of a concept or the authority of universal definitions. The manifold and inventiveness of fictive words and meaning constructions in feminism SF would therefore promote a more organic use of language, which is characterised by an “ongoing process of signification”, training our abilities to name what still has to be named. Those selected stories represent attempts to shift from a distinct-self humanist approach to a posthumanist practice of embodiness and of partial identities.

My research will draw its theoretical background on Donna Haraway and Katharina Hayles’ writings, as well as on Feminist Science Fiction novels written by Ursula K. Le Guin, Élisabeth Vonarburg, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Suzette Haden Elgin, Vonda N. McIntyre, etc. The research will be based on a selection of fictive words (coinages and neologisms) and meaning-shifting words (neosemy) in the SF novels. My phd will be carried both on a theoretical level (literature and cultural studies) and artistic research, building an experimental open-dictionary, collecting text excerpts, recorded voices and moving images.

“I can’t properly define that Orgota word here translated as “commensal,» «commensality.» Its root is a word meaning «to eat together.» Its usage includes all national/ governmental institutions of Orgoreyn, from the State as a whole through its thirty-three component substates or Districts to the sub-substates, townships, communal farms, mines, factories, and so on, that compose these. As an adjective it is applied to all the above; in the form «the Commensals» it usually means the thirty-three Heads of Districts, who form the governing body, executive and legislative, of the Great Commensality of Orgoreyn, but it may also mean the citizens, the people themselves. In this curious lack of distinction between the general and specific applications of the word, in the use of it for both the whole and the part, the state and the individual, in this imprecision is its precisest meaning.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Other Hand of Darkness, p.116

Kurz-Biographie / Short Bio
Marie-Andrée Pellerin is an artist and researcher from Montreal (CA). Her practice deals with language, rhetoric and semantic fields from a feminist perspective, through various formats such as video, sound, lecture-performances, installation and sculpture. She has been engaged in site-specific research, collaborations and residencies at CCA Glasgow, BPS22 Museum, Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, Studio XX, etc. She is currently involved in the artist-run space bb15 in Linz and as well as other curatorial projects.

Email-Adresse / Email-Address:


illustration Essy May; Essays by Ursula K. Le Guin