Prosthetic Gods, Projected Monsters
Technology, Insanity, and Imagining the Human Subject in H.P. Lovecraft and Georges Bataille
Keywords:projection, imagination, psychoanalysis, monsters, technology
This paper examines several narratives of techno-horror in literature and film. Special attention is paid to the recurring trope of monstrosity arising from a technologically augmented sense of sight. Utilizing a psychoanalytically informed analysis, this paper argues that fictions can express latent, untenable dimensions of very real experiences. In the case of techno-horror, narratives of sight, imagination, and projection-made-monstrous are rooted in contemporary relationships with technology and its capacity for depicting and transmitting unconscious fantasies. In this relationship, the technological is the extension of a tangible category of humanity, while nevertheless containing the fear that this extension dissolves its stability.
Thus, the genre of techno-horror is unique in expressing the role of unconscious fantasies – our unattainable ideals for becoming “prosthetic Gods,” as Freud put it (1930) – in our relationship with technology. Like the ideal of transcendence in religion, this technological ideal is a desire for both an impossible future, as well as the wish to return to an equally impossible, infantile past. Ultimately, this paper suggests that techno-horror narratives are expressions of a failure in taking responsibility for the othered unconscious fantasies that motivate our relationship with technology. Understanding these narratives within the context of psychoanalytic projection and situating them within the long tradition of imagining a transcendence of the human subject affords a better understanding of the cultural work accomplished by these contemporary expressions of the human-made-monstrous.