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08:30-10:00 Session 28A: Mapping Identities, Words and Places
Geographies of Empathy: Reading-as-therapy at City-Scale

ABSTRACT. This presentation will describe city-scale differences in uptake and response to community-oriented reading in Chicago by means of recent work from our long-term grant-funded “Reading Chicago Reading” DH project about Chicago Public Library’s “One Book One Chicago” program (2001-present). This overview presentation of results and methods from our archive of social media posts related to the chosen books, as well as our city-wide circulation stats for all 81 branches for multiple seasons, shows both over time and across neighborhoods of highly-segregated Chicago some quantitative differences in checkouts and posts about the books (some set in Chicago, some not). Because several OBOC books are set in the same city as the readers, while others are not, we can create comparative maps of what we have been calling “affective investment” maps about narratives associated with a reader’s own locale. Of particular interest to SLSA attendees may be our first models of a sentiment map of Chicago place names, locating positive and negative geographical “troping” across the city by sentiment scores for select toponyms in the books. When this sentiment map is overlaid with others in our data set (branch checkouts, CPL promotion, neighborhood statistics from the American Community Survey and City of Chicago data portal) we can make hypotheses about the spatial distribution of empathetic reading at scale: how readers self-identify as feeling with others’ in their same city or in other places and times, and how various neighborhoods of a city reveal more or less aggregate evidence of empathy from civic-sponsored reading.

!Toronto: A Non-linear and Generative Exploration of Toronto on Film

ABSTRACT. This paper will present and explore the development of a multi-screen, video-wall installation titled !Toronto, which acts as a collaborative extension of a documentary film project initiated by filmmaker Alexandra Anderson. For the documentary film, an extensive database was constructed of films shot in Toronto from early twentieth century to the present day. Drawing on this vast collection of fictional film clips, Anderson’s documentary maps, in a linear fashion, key landmarks and more quotidian settings that are often used to depict Toronto as “somewhere else”, and most commonly as American cities such as New York, or Chicago. The documentary explores what this means within the discourse of Canadian national cinema and Canadian identity. The title of the documentary, Toronto Hides Itself references the 2003 film Los Angeles Plays Itself, directed by Thom Anderson, which served as a source of inspiration.

!Toronto makes use of custom software and Geographic Information System (GIS) map data to produce an emergent and generative journey through this same database of clips making use of various keywords which have been applied to the clips (such as “Yonge Street”, “CN Tower”, “TTC Streetcar”, etc.). Through combining over 1700 clips from narrative cinema, with locative map data, interviews with various filmmakers (Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, and Bruce McDonald to name but a few), and original footage showing the locations as they actually appear outside of fictional film, the project works present a new way of visualizing and understanding the depiction of Toronto on film. The title, ! Toronto, stems from commonly used coding syntax where the “!” denotes a negation, or a logical “not”.

Mapping Maxims: A Literary Landscape of İstanbul, Turkey

ABSTRACT. The study of short literary genres in public locations offers researchers a way to evaluate two dominant trends in sociolinguistics and literary criticism. Short literary genres include aphorisms, maxims, proverbs, witticisms, riddles, and epigrams, among an ever-growing list of hashtags, comments, and more. On the one hand, sociolinguistics developed methods of linguistic landscaping in the 1990s to analyze and map macro trends of language diversity that appear in an increasingly globalized world. However, there is very little attention paid to either the material or the form of this language. Literary critics, however, pay attention to and interpret the form of short genres, but often assume that readers only need to focus on special examples, or masterpieces collected in an anthology and housed in a library. This presentation draws attention to the importance of short literary genre in public locations by combining methods from linguistic landscaping with semiotics and literary criticism. By creating a digital map of where, when, and in what material public writing appears in one neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, we can see advertising, public announcements, stickers, flyers, graffiti, and other verbal and non-verbal signs as “literary.” I will first offer a review of current research from sociolinguistics and literary criticism on short literary genres in public. Thereafter, I’ll conclude by presenting a semiotic and quantitative approach to a literary landscape of the neighborhood of Rasimpaşa, on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey, from examples collected between 2020-2022.

Categorizations of Multiple-perspective Biographical Narratives

ABSTRACT. We are used to thinking about multiple perspectives when it comes to fiction, but we expect a certain objectivity when it comes to a text narrating someone's life. When one comes to reading the biography of a known artist, there are certain essential elements one expects to find in it: a certain chronology of events, as well as references to specific people and places, and how works might relate to those events, people and places he experienced. However, the fact of the matter is that deviations in biographical accounts do occur in all of these areas. We will investigate these differences by data mining the extensive biographical narrative in the Online Picasso Project MySQL database tables using network analysis which studies large groups of nodes and their relationships, or how they are linked by edges. In turn, network analysis can reveal many unexpected features of large systems and their connections. In the case of our study, we visualize these features using Gephi: an open-source software for network visualization and analysis. The goal of the study is to ascertain three points through data mining. First, what Events, People, Places and Works are referenced by specific biographies. Second, how those Events, People, Places and Works differ from biography to biography. Finally, what correlations there are between presence/absence of certain Events, People, Places and Works. The final goal is to arrive at a classification and categorization of the many available biographies based on their content.

08:30-10:00 Session 28B: Artifices and Artifacts: Translations on Simondon’s practices of making and thinking
Artifices and artifacts: Translations on Simondon’s practices of making and thinking

ABSTRACT. How do people(s) transform the qualities of their worlds through reading and producing artifacts? How are artifacts transformed through informing and amplifying the perspectives of people(s)? Our panel is interested in how material, mental, and digital phenomena develop, drawing inspiration from twentieth century French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon and his theory of ontogenesis to ask how these phenomena might translate across disparate domains. In these artifactual ontogenies, cognitive, affective, and valuative forces conspire with corporeal and energetic elements in the processual formation of subjective relations with technical objects. The papers gathered here are each engaged with ways of knowing that can serve as critical complements to the discourses concerning automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence that prevail within Western-dominated technocultures.

08:30-10:00 Session 28C: Death and Resurrection of the Author
“The Reanimation of the Author: Writing Human in the Digital Afterlife”

ABSTRACT. Roland Barthes announced the “death of the author” because, in his view, meaning is made only through individual interpretation, regardless of authorial intent. Drawing from Barthes’ provocation, this project puts forth another: the reanimation of the author. Here, I extend my research on the biopolitics of the digitization of 3D media to another kind of embodied data: handwriting. This experiment reanimates an author’s own hand through digital fabrication, specifically, vector-based digitization and the digital drawing machine, or, the XY plotter.

This project calls forth other kinds of ghostly bodies evoked and distributed by automated processes. For instance, the player piano reanimates the ghostly body of the composer through a mechanically-distributed body. In this project, the body of the writer manifests through a similar implied presence, remaining disembodied, ethereal. Presence without matter. How might this approach foster intimacy, learning, and connection? How might we, respectfully, call forth and keep alive authors and artists who have passed on through digital, automated reanimation? More importantly, what are the risks of doing so?

Unlike other afterlife dwellings, the digital archive does not often allow those immortalized there to rest in peace. What becomes of the writing human—not to mention the reading human—when the computer steps in as scribe for the living, the dead, and those caught somewhere in between reanimated in the digital afterlife?

Creative Dialectic: An analysis of AI + Human Collaboration and the question of Authorship.

ABSTRACT. The question of co-authorship of works of art that were created through the collaboration of AI and humans ties quite closely to the notion of free will and the ever-evolving anthropocentric relation of machine robots with human society. AI neural networks are exponentially becoming more and more part of humanity's artistic endeavors which naturally blurs the line of creative authorship. Furthermore, this close collaboration brings about the possible evolution of ontological features in machines such as free will, creativity the Observer effect, but more importantly, the mystery of Qualia - 'experience' which is in essence the Hard Problem of Consciousness.

With Deep Machine Learning specifically GAN technology, AI can function as an extension of the artist's consciousness fractioned out where the imagination is partially outsourced to an external entity to explore broader creative possibilities in a form of a creative dialectic. AI has the capacity to function far more than a tool such as a paintbrush or a camera apparatus. It generates information from a set of data inputs working through a multi-dimensional Latent Space that is unique to its structure and how it processes input from the outside world.

Hence it can be argued that it is no longer plausible for such machines to be merely considered a 'tool' in an artistic method. Latent Spaces, being multidimensional in nature allow for a certain degree of uncertainty and Chance to be present in their mechanism. This in turn implies a potential for a machine to develop creative faculties and the possibility to exercise a certain level of free will within the small parameter of its internal matrix.

This creative dialectic between humans and machines has the potential to bring about a synthesis of absolute imagination with absolute rationality.

Switchbox Thinking

ABSTRACT. In so much as any representation of human intelligence renders it artificial, a literary history of artificial intelligence would do well to consider the moment in which the persuasive construction of fictional decision-making interested novelists and computer programmers alike.

In 1960, Flannery O’Connor published The Violent Bear It Away, a novel that made the artifice of characterological behavior an aesthetic concern. Through the construction of strict binary operations, O’Connor’s characters think in a manner that reduces them to “something human trapped in a switchbox.” Also in 1960, MIT researchers created SAGA, an early artificial intelligence experiment that generated fictional texts. As in O’Connor’s novel, SAGA’s characters navigate binary choices—to enter a room or flee; to fire their gun or holster it—that together produce a sequence of actions. In a flowchart that outlines these binary choices, the programmers referred to such moments as “switches.”

Switchbox thinking nominalizes the conjoined potential of postwar fiction and digital media to process human cognition mimetically, not through the realism of subjective interiority—where thinking ostensibly occurs—but through the execution of external events. O’Connor’s novel indicates a postwar aesthetic that turns from modernist strategies of representing interiority, which returns in more recent AI narratives such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun; meanwhile, SAGA documents a vital step towards quantifying intelligence statistically that anticipates the achievements of GPT-3. Together, these examples contextualize a vested interest in the fictionality of artificial intelligence, from the emergence of switchbox thinking to AI's ascendance in contemporary culture.

10:30-12:00 Session 30B: The Human Gaze on Nature: Classification and Conservation
Affective Engagement with Birdsong: Beyond Anthropocentrism

ABSTRACT. Birds are sensitive environmental indicators that flag imminent changes in ecosystems and biodiversity. Historically, the importance of this class of animal to the environment has been refracted through mostly anthropocentric experience in art and literature.

Literary, cultural engagement with the various species of the avian class generally tends towards an anthropocentrism which associates birds with human affective concerns, either metaphorically, or symbolically. Emily Dickinson famously defines hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”, Marie de France’s nightingale in Laüstic embodies the romance between a married woman and her lover, and there is a long tradition in international literatures and philosophies of association between birds and the human spirit, or concepts of divinity.

This paper moves beyond anthropocentric appropriations of birds to explore human engagement with recorded bird vocalizations in contexts ranging from musical compositions to experimental studies. It explores affective engagement with sound disengaged from a natural context in which it is experienced through several senses, and analyzes examples which resist anthropocentrism. I argue that through digitization of birdsong in artistic and other contexts, it is possible to provoke an affective response which simultaneously distances the human listener from the birds, and that this more powerfully mobilizes an environmentally-oriented agenda than anthropocentrism.

Decolonizing Aquaria: A More-Than-Human History for the Future

ABSTRACT. In the twenty-first century, we need to unravel so many of the institutions around us, to push them to undo what they have done. Yet undoing is not dissolving. Undoing is not rewinding or stepping backwards. Rather, as queer theorist Jack Halberstam shows us, “unbuilding the world” can lead us forward to wildness, toward the less bounded worlds that we lost but now crave. Why not start unbuilding our world by unbuilding the aquarium?

The paper I propose will accomplish two tasks. First, it will examine the historical processes involved in aquarium-building by “opening up” a single aquarium— the short-lived public aquarium of the National Zoological Park of Washington, D.C., founded in 1895 and closed in 1909. Narrating the case study of a single failed aquarium as synecdoche will show us how aquariums reel-in and collapse diverse ecosystems into flattened representations, a fitting symbol of the Anthropocene. This paper will employ the conceptual/theoretical toolkit of anthropologist Anna Tsing to locate the octopus, seahorses, Bermuda fish, anemones, and humans exploited in and through Capitalism and all of its “patchiness.” We will see that many lives and environments become netted in, and erased behind, the (social) construction of the aquarium. Second, seeing the process of assembly – in its particulars – will enable the theorization and imagination of disassembly. What processes (and sites of) extraction does an aquarium lead us to? What would it mean to decolonize such processes and spaces?What does the aquarium tell us about the structures of Capitalism and their impact on more-than-human persons and places? How can institutions of violence – like the aquarium – become openings into spaces, heterotopias, of care, healing, and getting on together. Thinking with the building and unbuilding of the National Zoo’s aquarium, this paper will pursue other, more ethical ways, of seeking connection with lives below the sea. What might an open aquarium look like?

10:30-12:00 Session 30C: New Disciplinary Approaches in the Sciences and Humanities
Newton on the Mesa

ABSTRACT. Al Coppola Associate Professor of English John Jay College, CUNY SLSA 2022 Proposal

Newton on the Mesa The paper I am proposing intends to explore the symmetries between Isaac Newton’s intellectual achievement in the Principia, and in particular the ideology and capital flows it called into being that we typically refer to as eighteenth-century Newtonianism, and the consolidation of complexity science under the auspices of the Santa Fe Institute in the final decades of the last century. I intend to bring under a common analysis the paradigm-remaking science of the Enlightenment with the new paradigms that define the age of Big Data. In short, I’m here to tell the story of the second coming of mathesis universalis.

Our neo-Newtonian epoch began in the hills above Santa Fe, in the Hollywood-ready dude ranch of Rancho Encantado on August 6, 1986 when senior researchers of the nascent Santa Fe Institute met the Chairman of Citibank in a sit-down brokered by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute. We are told that the bankers and the scientists met “to examine the potential application of some recent developments in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer technology to the better understanding and management of world capital flow and debt.” Such is the euphemistic jargon that papers over what was in fact a screaming crisis for the new chairman and his bank, which had recently lost $1 billion in its Latin American portfolio, and was staring down the barrel of another $13 billion in at-risk assets. When the bank shared the proprietary model they had been using, a quant monster of “4500 equations and 6000 variables,” the scientists scoffed and claimed that if anything Citi’s Project Link needed more data points, more functions, more nodes of relations.

So what had brought Wall Street to the Land of Enchantment? The world-moving keywords here are not attraction, fluxions, and divine providence, but the methods and ambition are shockingly similar. Drawing on a wide range of recent experimental work across a range of disciplines, these scientists developed tools to discern emergent patterns of order in dynamic systems that changed according to unfathomably complex and ramified circuitries of actors and forces. By the mid-1980s, these flashes of insight into the properties of previously incalculable and unknowable phenomena seemed to be coalescing into a deep, elegant, and surprisingly simple order that might subtend all natural and human processes. Stephen Wolfram, who’d go on to develop of Mathmatica, called on his colleagues to “formulate universal laws” that could “elaborate the mathematical mechanisms by which large numbers of simple components, acting together, can produce the behaviour of the real complexity observed.”

A central tenet of both 18th-century Newtonianism and 20th-century complexity science is that the world just *is* this way. We should take Daniel Stein, the editor of SFI’s first volume of proceedings quite seriously when in his Preface he muses that “Complexity is almost a theological concept,” no more or less so than the Newtonianism that structured Enlightenment physico-theology. Indeed, as I will outline in my paper, the resemblances between Complexity Science and Newtonianism are highly suggestive. Not only did both derive from dramatic advancements in mathematics to arrive at a new theory of reality, and not only did that new method actually produce tangible and financially remunerative results. Most powerfully of all, both the Newtonians and the complexity scientists offered up what they believed was a proof of concept for a true mathesis universalis, the ancient dream of a system of quantification and calculation that could capture the entirety of phenomenal reality.

Un-Earthing Reading: Literary Methods In Outer Space

ABSTRACT. I write to propose a paper entitled “Un-Earthing Reading: Literary Methods in Outer Space” for the 2022 SLSA conference. In recent years, there has been significant attention to literary methods and modes of reading in order to address shifting social, political, and technological conditions in our culture. However, there has been less attention paid to the role of environments, environmental conditions, and technological infrastructures in structuring reading. In this presentation, I propose a kind of environmental reading practice focusing on the environment of outer space, an increasingly significant environment for the ways in which it is increasingly evoked as a possible neo-colonial future in response to climate crisis and site of infrastructural development. Through an exploration of the sensing infrastructure used in scientific monitoring of outer space, satellites in particular, as discursive and technical objects and the various environmental conditions that satellites come into contact with and monitor, this paper argues for a reading practice that engages text through a form of cognitive displacement or estrangement into the nonhuman environment of outer space. By tracing the particulars of the monitoring infrastructure used by the SETI Institute alongside the play and narrative mechanics of the video game Outer Wilds, I suggest that reading in outer space requires a broader engagement methodological commitment to listening and sound as modes of engagement with text and representative of a potential method of reading through the ways in which information is distributed via waveforms at the cosmic scale of outer space. To demonstrate a reading that considers the listening, sound, and text in this way, I assert SETI and Outer Wilds use text and sound to reveal what I call “the cacophony of extinction,” or the relationship between sound, life, relationality, and habitability, and allows the listener/reader to access a kind of species identity and awareness of extinction and a world without them. Reading across environments, nonhuman environments in particular, makes it possible to account for and incorporate the nonhuman and requires human readers to confront the ways in which nonhuman knowledge exceeds or disrupts human forms of knowing. Attention to listening and sound in outer space in this way provides a direct and urgent challenge to the contemporary expression of liberal humanism motivating space tourism and colonialism.

10:30-12:00 Session 30D: “Big Music/Big Mood: Affect, Radicalization, and Rhetorical Circulation in Contemporary Music”

Roundtable (sponsored by the English Department, Purdue University)

Big Music/Big Mood: Affect, Radicalization, and Rhetorical Circulation in Contemporary Music

ABSTRACT. Reading and listening are socio-political acts. Treating Silvan Tomkins’s affect theory as a port of departure, our roundtable utilizes multiple genres of music as cultural artifacts to investigate how meaning and identity are constructed and circulated affectively within a variety of contemporary musical forms and how music not only engages but energizes particular contexts. In line with Stuart Hall’s (1980) theory of encoding/decoding, which originally dealt with the viewing (or reading) of television as a productive and consumptive act, we treat music as a medium with multiple and ongoing sites of production, wherein reading occurs with affective (Chaput, 2010) and networked (Latour, 2005) functionalities and repercussions. Just as Laurie Gries (2015) examined the affective circulations of the Obama Hope image, we examine how music is not simply consumed by the listener/reader. Rather, we posit that, in a massively mediated age, listening and reading have a new proximity that invents and manifests new rhetorical contexts. Building on Hall, Chaput writes that the “constant circulation of production and consumption generates political economic values,” (pp. 5–6). This is where the circulation of affect becomes so potent: it permeates and catalyzes the visual, textual, and sonic in orchestrated and powerful ways. Silvan Tomkins, in a 1975 essay, wrote: “A world experienced without any affect would be a pallid, meaningless world. We would know that things happened, but we could not care whether or not they did.” In our panel, we argue that music is both a text and something that can no longer be relegated to text; it is one energizing and agentive force acting within a larger affective meaning-making network.

(Individual paper summaries are attached as a PDF.)

10:30-12:00 Session 30E: Posthuman, Human, and Monsters
Feminine Bodyminds, Animacies, and Paths for Posthuman Survival in The Tiger Flu

ABSTRACT. Larissa Lai’s novel The Tiger Flu presents possibilities for radical, posthuman presentations of decentered normativity in many ways, particularly through its presentation of the Grist Sisters, who actively challenge traditional, liberal humanist concepts of Cartesian dualism and the vertical animacy hierarchy. As a group female clones which use their bodies for survival and refutation of the male-dominated, objectifying world of the past, the Grist Sisters require a radical rethinking of liberal humanist and patriarchal conceptions of the animacy and agency of the feminine bodymind. The Grist Sisters also exist outside of normative definitions of human as they survive through a complex, deeply intertwined relationship between starfish (those who are able to give body parts to ill Grist Sisters and then regrow these parts), doublers (those who can reproduce), and grooms (those who cut and take care of the starfish). The Grist Sisters actively refute the notion that women’s bodies are a space to be “used” or objectified, showing a feminist theory of embodiment that allows them to reclaim their bodies as spaces that can be used to their own needs for survival. The Grist Sisters also refute the mind/body divide, as they feel and carry knowledge in their bodies, both metaphorically and physically. By presenting the Grist Sisters act of posthuman, feminine survival, Lai shows that there are possibilities for living in dystopic worlds through decentering liberal humanist and patriarchal values.

Weird Creatures: Romantic-era Science and the Horror of Nature

ABSTRACT. Many of the texts in which Romantic-era authors contemplate nonhuman forms of life are marked by some measure of ambivalence, equivocation, disgust, fear, or terror. While some of these texts have long played a role in the Gothic tradition, I argue they might by more productively read through a theoretical framework informed by the history and philosophy of science. In the introduction to the recently published essay collection Fear and Nature: Ecohorror Studies in the Anthropocene, the editors describe ecohorror as a subgenre that “reflects our anxieties about science and the nonhuman while revealing how much we value those things. We fear science and its attempts to control the natural world; we fear the natural world and the way it exceeds our control” (7). In this presentation, I consider Romantic ecohorror as a mode that emerges from the overlapping discourses of aesthetics and science, which takes shape at a moment when natural history and philosophy were beginning to offer humans a greater control over nature while revealing both the potential consequences and the limits of that power and knowledge. My reading begins with the discourse on the zoophytes—creatures that defied classification as a plant or animal—in late eighteenth-century science and poetry, and ends with a consideration of the mysterious plague that wipes out humanity in Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel, The Last Man.

To frame this argument, I look to Eugene Thacker’s formulation of the “Univocal Creature” in After Life, where he begins with a reading of Aristotle’s De Anima as a source of the “logically coherent,” yet, “necessarily contradictory” conceptions of life in Classical and Medieval texts (6). In Thacker’s reading, these inherent contradictions persist in characterizing the condition of modernity to the present. Thacker makes this connection by linking early discourses on life to the early twentieth-century literary genre of “weird fiction,” which is characterized primarily by encounters with forms of life that are beyond human understanding. He notes that in these works, as in the discipline of Natural History, “the monster is a creature of norm and law, a form of life that is defined by its deviation from a norm,” yet, the more existential threat is “not the monster, or that which threatens our existing categories of knowledge,” but that which “cannot be thought” (23). The discourse on the zoophytes reveals the inherent contradictions and limits in human attempts to theorize the natural world and their place within it, prompting a critique of long-standing humanistic frameworks that takes place in Romantic-era literature. Moving from a microscopic scale to the consider the macrocosm, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, which offers a vision of nature that is indifferent to human life, is a text depicts the affective process of coming to terms with the contingency of human individuals and institutions in the Anthropocene. I argue that the question questions evoked by encounters with weird creatures lead back to the ongoing theorization of the human as the weirdest creature of all.

Reading the Human: Envisioning Embryos in Octavia Butler’s Dawn

ABSTRACT. A visual biological science, embryology relies on language to make visualizations of the body’s interior legible. Embryology and its related tool, the fetal ultrasound, project various metrics and scripts onto fetal images to craft specific biological narratives, such as assigning the sex of the fetus or detecting fetal abnormalities. How, then, do the narrative tools and scripts of embryology manifest in literature? This paper considers Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn (1987) in light of the commercially available embryological technology of the 1980s — a charged time for reproductive rights and justice, between the 1973 legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade and the various attempts of anti-abortion organizers to undermine this right by arguing for “fetal rights.” Butler’s novel implicates the complicated political space pregnant people lived through in the 1980s as she presents an extreme imaginary complication to questions of choice and consent in Lilith’s non-consensual in vitro fertilization via her alien partner in Dawn. The topic of this paper connects particularly to the conference theme of the “Reading Human” since embryology involves both the human act of reading an image to then translate that visual image into a narrative, as well as the act of “reading a human” in which embryology as a science involves a human actor reading a “human” into being. My inquiry follows Mel Y. Chen’s thought-provoking afterword to Animacies (2012), in which Chen considers Barbara Johnson’s work on “animation” and abortion, to ask what existential assumptions and narrative techniques “animate” the human in embryology? The language Butler uses to describe both Lilith’s understanding of her body in her new, otherworldly context and to describe the Oankali alien ship as a kind of embryological entity encourages a reading of the ways in which embryological science resonates in literature. This resonance also necessitates an exploration of the degree to which conception, birth, and “reading a human” could ever be considered “natural,” amidst increasingly political and scientific frameworks for understanding life.