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Doctoral dissertation project of Olga Tarapata

From Technoromanticism to New Realism – Non-normative Bodies and Subjectivities in the Work of William Gibson  (working title)

My dissertation project aims at conceptualizing the figurations of disability in the work of the contemporary American-Canadian fiction writer William Gibson. From his early short stories in Burning Chrome (1986) to The Peripheral (2014), it is bodies with lost limbs, damaged nervous systems, exoskeletons, partial as well as total disintegrations, aging issues, prostheses, allergies, concentration deficits and physical deformities that drive the narratives. Despite this abundance in corporeal exceptionality, extraordinary bodies remain at a blind spot in the reception of his work, which not only allows their marginalization to continue and, by extension, contributes to the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in culture in general. Contrary to Gibson’s reputation as an advocate of virtual life and disembodied existence, I argue that his fiction is deeply concerned with the embodiment, materiality and embeddedness of ‘the human animal.’ My analysis goes hand in hand with the denaturalization of disability as a stable category of an inherent individual deficit drawing on Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s terminology of the “extraordinary” body, which she regards as the “paradigm of what culture calls deviant” (1997). In creating a dialogue between Gibson’s fiction and theories of disability, my project links up with contemporary scholarly interventions surrounding what Katherine Hayles popularized as ‘the posthuman,’ what Robert McRuer introduced as ‘crip theory,’ and what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari presented as ‘assemblages.’ By forcing the reader to imagine bodies and subjectivities otherwise, Gibson’s narratives fundamentally provoke, in this way, to recognize the fluid and procedural qualities of bodies providing new codifications of extraordinary corporeality.


Short biography

Olga Tarapata completed her degree in English, Biology and Educational Sciences at the University of Cologne in 2014. This continuous appreciation of the bridging of disciplines is mirrored in her dissertation project which intends to provide a critical analysis of the figurations of dis|ability in the work of William Gibson by imbricating American literature with history, cognitive with social science as well as philosophy with politics. She joined the department of American literature and culture as a student assistant in 2009 and continued her work as a research assistant in 2014. In addition to her involvement in international conferences, she teaches introductory seminars on Literary/American Studies as well as organizes international workshops targeting the nexus of American literature and cultural disability studies at the University of Cologne. Since April 2015, Olga is a scholarship holder at the a.r.t.e.s Graduate School and her research interests include literary theory, social constructivism, U.S. American literature and the negotiations of disability and identity (national, social, cultural, gender) therein.

Contact: tarapata.olga(at)gmail.com



"Paralympic, Parahuman, Paranormal – A Response to Karin Harrasser." In: Culture – Theory – Disability: Encounters between Disability Studies and Cultural Studies. Eds. Anne Waldschmidt, Hanjo Berressem, Moritz Ingwersen. Bielefeld: transcript, 2017. Print. (forthcoming)

"Über die Beschaffenheit der Dinge in William Gibsons Virtuelles Licht." In: schliff: Lebensformen, No. 5, 2016, pp. 138-147. Print.

"From Ear To I: The Music of Becoming and the Necessity of Chance in Paul Auster’s City of Glass." In: The Music of Chance. Eds. Stephen Butler, Łukasz Neubauer. Jastrzębie Zdrój: Black Unicorn, 2015. Print.



"Of Shrapnel and Nanotech, Allergies and Intuitions – Extraordinary Bodies in the Work of William Gibson"
22.08.2014: Paper at the SFF/Now – International Conference, Warwick University, United Kingdom

"A Child on the Move: The Mapping of American Heterotopias in Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet"
27.03.2013: Paper at the Devils and Dolls: Dichotomous Depiction of ‘the Child’ – International Conference, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

"From Ear To I: The Music of Becoming and the Necessity of Chance in Paul Auster’s City of Glass"
18.05.2012: Paper at the The Music of Chance – International Conference, Politechnika Koszalinska, Poland


Teaching experience

Winter semester 2015/16

Seminar: "Cripples, Freaks and Cyborgs in American Literature", Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln

Workshop: "Bodies | Motion: Disabilities in Literature, Theory and the Arts", Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln

Summer semester 2015

Seminar: "Introduction to Literary Studies (Focus on American Studies)", Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln

Winter semester 2014/15

Seminar: "Introduction to American Studies", Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln

Hauptseminar: "Disability Studies | Science Fiction" (mit Prof. Dr. Hanjo Berressem und Eleana Vaja), Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln

Workshop: “Disability Studies | Science Fiction” (mit Prof. Dr. Hanjo Berressem und Eleana Vaja), Englisches Seminar I, Universität zu Köln


Cover photo: Schwermetall Spezial. Band 2 – William Gibson, Tom de Haven, Bruce Jensen: Neuromancer. Nürnberg: alpha-comic. 1990. p. 20 (detail) // Portrait photo: Patric Fouad