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The Ian Fletcher Memorial Lecture Series


2023-24 Fletcher Lecture: John Plotz 
Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities, Brandeis University

'We Have Always Been Posthuman: Speculative Satire before Science Fiction'

Monday, October 2, 2023   |  4:45 p.m. doors open, 5:15 p.m. lecture begins
Ross-Blakley Hall (RBHL) 1102 S. McAllister Ave., room 196
ASU Tempe campus

Please join us for the annual Ian Fletcher Memorial Lecture on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, at 5:15 p.m. in Ross-Blakley Hall (RBHL) room 196 on the ASU Tempe campus. This event is sponsored by the Department of English in honor of Professor Ian Fletcher (1920-1988).

Doors open at 4:45 p.m. Refreshments will be served.


About this year's event
John Plotz photo courtesy Brandeis University

Our lecture this year will be delivered by John Plotz, the Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and the co-host of Recall This Book podcast. His talk is titled, "We Have Always Been Posthuman: Speculative Satire before Science Fiction." 

Well before the twentieth-century genre of science fiction was officially named, satirical speculative fiction decentered human subjectivity in ways that strikingly resemble what in our own Anthropocene era has been called “posthumanism.” Late nineteenth-century works labelled utopic ("News from Nowhere"), dystopic ("After London," "Erewhon"), and comical/nonsensical ("Flatland," "Alice in Wonderland") reveal a persistent strain of anti-anthropocentric thinking. Within an era often thought of as homogeneously capitalist and committed to empiricism or positivism, Victorian speculative satire is an under-appreciated instance of what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “immanent counter-Enlightenment discourses.” Such satire in its various manifestations can remind modern-day readers that “man is the measure of all things” was a highly debated proposition even at the height of the Industrial/Imperial age.

Professor Plotz, whose research interests are in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature, the novel, science fiction, and fantasy, is the author of "The Crowd: British Literature and Public Politics" (2000), "Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move" (2008), "Semi-Detached: Aesthetic Experience from Dickens to Keaton" (2017), and "My Reading: Ursula Le Guin’s 'Earthsea'" (2023).

This event is also generously supported by the following ASU units: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Institute for Humanities Research; the School of International Letters and Cultures; the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; and the School of Social Transformation.

For more information about the Fletcher Lecture series, please contact Melissa Free:

2021-2022: Ivan Kreilkamp VIDEO Thursday, October 14, 2021 @ 5:15 p.m., Ross-Blakley Hall room 196, ASU Tempe campus. “Living on Pea-nuts: George Gissing in the Long Depression.”

Watch previous lectures in the Ian Fletcher Memorial Lecture Series

2018-2019: Laura Chrisman VIDEO October 23, 2018 @ 6 p.m., Memorial Union Mohave Room, ASU Tempe campus.  "African Atlantics and Imperial Culture: Critical Directions Past, Present and Future"

2016-2017: Teresa Mangum VIDEO April 18, 2017 @ 6 p.m., Memorial Union Pima Auditorium, ASU Tempe campus. "When the Lion Lies Down with the Lamb—The Art of Interspecies Attachment"

2015-2016: Alexander Regier VIDEO April 28, 2016 @ 5:30 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Blake, Hamann, and the Polyglot Moravians: Unexpected Connections in 1750s London"

2014-2015: Pamela K. Gilbert VIDEO April 14, 2015 @ 5:30 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "'A Mild Erection of the Head': The Meaning of the Blush in Nineteenth-Century Britain

2013-2014: Richard C. Sha VIDEO April 9, 2014 @ 5:30 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Romantic Science and Romantic Imagination"

2012-2013: Regenia Gagnier  VIDEO April 11, 2013 @ 6 p.m., Memorial Union La Paz Room, ASU Tempe campus. "World Literatures and What It Means to Be Human in the Niche of Nature, Culture, Technology"

2011-2012: Mary Poovey VIDEO April 12, 2012 @ 6 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Risk, Uncertainty, and Data: Managing Risk in Early Twentieth-Century America"

2010-2011: John Kucich VIDEO April 28, 2011 @ 6 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "The Unfinished Historicist Project: In Praise of Suspicion"

2008-2009: Anne Mellor VIDEO April 22, 2009 @ 5 p.m., Memorial Union Alumni Lounge (MU 202) ASU Tempe campus. "Mothering Monsters: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"

2007-2008: Catherine Gallagher September 27, 2007 @ 6 p.m., University Club (UCLUB), ASU Tempe campus. "Jane Austen and the British Slave Trade: An Imaginary Conversation from Mansfield Park"

2005-2006: Jerome McGann VIDEO March 28, 2006 @ 7 p.m., University Club (UCLUB), ASU Tempe campus. "Information Technology and the Troubled Humanities"

2004-2005: Steven Mailloux October 26, 2004 @ 6:30 p.m., Memorial Union Gold Room (MU 203), ASU Tempe campus. "Thinking with Rhetorical Figures: Racial and Disciplinary Identities in Late Nineteenth-Century America"

2003-2004: Lennard J. Davis VIDEO November 13, 2003 @ 4:40 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Race, Disability, and the New Genomics"

2002-2003: Patrick Brantlinger VIDEO October 24, 2002 @ 7:30 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Cannibals and Missionaries"

2001-2002: Wlad Godzich October 24, 2001 @ 7 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus. "Fletcherlecture2001"

2000-2001: Mary Louise Pratt VIDEO  February 21, 2001. "Modernity and Globality or What Brought the Virgin of Zapopan to Los Angeles?"

1999-2000: Louise Rosenblatt October 27, 1999 @ 7 p.m., University Club, ASU Tempe campus.

Ian Fletcher

Ian Fletcher was a much-beloved Victorianist, a specialist in the literature of the 1890s, who spent the final six years of his career at Arizona State University during the 1980s. A remarkably productive scholar much appreciated for his edition of Lionel Johnson's poems, his much-quoted guide to Walter Pater, and his late study of Aubrey Beardsley published in 1987, Ian produced a host of books and articles that have been read and re-read many times in the past 40 years. In fact, his Collected Poems were published in 1998: ten years after his unfortunate death. This lectureship honors his memory and his importance in the field of Victorian Studies.

—Dan Bivona
Associate Professor, Department of English