Master of Arts
For over a decade, researchers have been investigating the efficacy of ß-adrenoceptor antagonist propranolol as a therapy for dulling traumatic memories. In 2016 Guistino et al published a review of this scientific literature, concluding that the results are mixed but, especially in terms of dampening fear memories, still promising. Numerous writers have raised questions, however, about the ethics of medicating traumatic memories. Most compellingly, Outka argues that trauma is so central to human experience that its negation results in, “a fundamentally different sort of human” (80). Building on Outka’s posthuman connection, this thesis will explore the posthuman ethics of medicating memory in conversation with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2016). In Split Kevin, a man with dissociative identity disorder, develops a mentally and physically posthuman alter-identity called the Beast. By contrasting the Beast’s empowerment with other characters’ human reactions to trauma, Split enables critical engagement with the complex ethical tension between personal, posthuman empowerment and societal harm. Specifically, Split articulates the dangers of inducing a posthuman resilience to trauma as well as exploring the dangers of romanticizing trauma. As we continue to research memory modification, it is important to recognise that valuable warnings about medical enhancement are found in fiction – not only because popular culture reveals the cultural significance and ethical capital of trauma and memory but also because fictional narratives are the primary space in which we can speculatively imagine and confront posthuman possibilities.
Andrews, Gillian, "The Hazards of Medicating Memory: Propranolol, Posthuman Ethics, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Split" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 5630.
Available for download on Saturday, February 26, 2022