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This dissertation examines the steampunk movement as a significant contemporary expression of the human condition. Although its aesthetic inspiration comes from the Victorian past, as re-tooled, re-imagined, and re-energized for the twenty-first century, steampunk’s underlying interest is in a speculative view of the future and a concern for the contemporary individual’s struggle to retain autonomy in a de-centered, deterritorialized world. As such the steampunk movement participates in, and contributes to, an important ongoing philosophical and aesthetic dialog. The project examines the motivations for steampunk’s visual inspiration in the Victorian. Technological and scientific advancements in that period greatly impacted societal traditions and the role of the individual within it. Economic, social, and political changes revolutionized daily life and the individual faced a new self-consciousness as she confronted, and adapted to, these significant changes. Today, similar technological advancements force new tensions between the individual and the world around her. Astounding developments in computing and artificial intelligence, and the concept of the cyborg and other hybrid beings challenge the contemporary individual’s sense of self. By looking to the past, steampunk seeks to recuperate the Victorian individual’s successful navigation of technological change. She does so in order to facilitate our own navigation of current waters. vii The project traces the movement’s modest roots as a literary sub-genre of science fiction, explores its sources in the Victorian, and describes the movement’s rapid evolution to global phenomenon. Today steampunk is fully integrated into contemporary culture as an aesthetic observed in visual, decorative, and fashion arts, comic books, movies, and television. The project explores the current landscape of art and philosophy in order to position the steampunk movement within the larger scope of the contemporary scene. A triad of prevailing philosophical trends—postmodernism, transhumanism, and posthumanism, help to reveal steampunk’s involvement in the contemporary philosophical and aesthetic dialog.
Arts and Humanities | Esthetics | Philosophy
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts
Albrecht, Kathe Hicks, "THE MACHINE ANXIETIES OF STEAMPUNK: CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY, NEO-VICTORIAN AESTHETICS, AND FUTURISM" (2016). Academic Research and Dissertations. 16.
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