Trans-corporeality in the Fiction of Don DiLillo and Richard Powers

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type



Faculty of Arts and Sciences



Date of Original Version



In Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self, Stacy Alaimo effectively formulates the concept of “trans-corporeality,” a theoretical frame for thinking about the human body as a site of exchange with the environment. Trans-corporeality “grapples with the ways in which environmental ethics, social theories, popular understandings of science, and conceptions of the human self are profoundly altered by the recognition that ‘the environment’ is not located somewhere out there, but is always the very substance of ourselves” (4). In this, trans- corporeality highlights that while human action is imposed onto the environment, actions of the environment are simultaneously imposed upon our bodies. For example, one might come to know the toxicity of his or her physical location by learning about the toxins which permeate his or her body. Trans-corporeality argues that the environment is always already embedded within the human. Alaimo encourages us to consider the material exchanges between the human and its environment as site where seemingly stable and discrete entities such as “body” or “earth” overlap in ways that create meaning. Furthermore, trans-corporeality can call our attention to the “the traffic in toxins” which highlights the ways a “chemical substance may poison the workers who produce it, the neighborhood in which it is produced, and the web of plants and animals who end up consuming it” (18). Trans-corporeality teaches us that when looking at the environment, we are also gazing at ourselves. Similarly, when considering the material forces that constitute our own bodies, we are also in dialogue with the environment.