Three Articles of Posthuman Modernism: The Meta-Cinema of Marcel L’Herbier (and Friends)
This paper reads Marcel L’Herbier’s The Inhuman Woman as an exemplary expression of a posthuman moment in modernism. Drawing on comparisons with the art of Fernand Léger and James Joyce, it highlights several elements of the film’s aesthetic – its heavily stylized compositions, its striking use of set design and costumes to subvert the visual syntax of foreground and background, its eroticization of technology, its disassembly of the human figure – in order to demonstrate the continuity between a high-modernist discourse on machine-life and current issues in posthuman theory. Both modernism and the posthuman respond to an epochal event within modernity, a technological acceleration of reality that reshapes ontological grammars. Both contemplate reality as a middle ground of mechanical and vital processes. And both are committed to a Copernican decentering of the human eye from its place of privilege in received models of phenomenal experience.