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97 5 “THOSE MAPS WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE” Remapping the Borderlines of the Posthuman Body in Leigh Bardugo’s GrishaTrilogy Maryna Matlock With what organ do we perceive monsters? Or, perhaps more aptly, by what hybrid bodies are we deceived into loving them, if not into becoming them? Beginning with Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy for young adult readers continually plumbs the territories of teratology, subverting the illusion of body borders demarcating the organism from the environment, the organic from the prosthetic, the human(e) from the monstrous. Bardugo’s texts introduce us to an enchanted world clawed in half by the Shadow Fold, a tract of darkness that swallows the land, teems with monsters, and threatens the survival of the Ravkan nation. But when the teenaged Alina suddenly manifests the power to summon light, her life is changed forever. For hundreds of years, Ravka has tempered its suffering with the meager hope that a Sun Summoner might be more than myth.But if Alina is to become the savior her country needs her to be, then she also risks transforming into the agent of its destruction. As Alina struggles with fears of becoming more than human or perhaps less than humane, as well as with the prostheticization of her body, which is sanctified as icon even as it is made a weapon, she must also contend with the kind of power that turns men into monsters. Distressingly seduced by her own potential , driven to belong, and inexorably drawn to the dangerous Darkling who has hopes for her of his own, Alina is thrust into an epic battle that exposes all the borderlines scarring her world and breeding its nightmares.As Alina tracks the boundaries between the ordinary and extraordinary, between hate and desire, fate and choice, even self and other, she comes to understand the spaces Remapping the Borderlines of the Posthuman Body in Grisha Trilogy 98 between, not as the tenebrous folds writhing with the monsters of humanism’s grand schisms but as the tenuous stitches bridging those manufactured divides. Thus, in Bardugo’s texts, whether and how we see monsters is conditioned by Alina’s developing posthumanist subjectivity; her incarnation of the posthuman borderline contests the myths on which margins are laid. Challenging the liminal thresholds upon which humanism erects its monstrous Others and against which it fortifies fictions of integrity, purity, and divisibility, the Grisha series demands a posthumanism that transcends binaristic bounds. However, Bardugo’s posthuman hybrids—her soldiers and scientists, scions and saints—do not court or even herald the doom of humanity; rather, their ontological fractures reveal what Pieter Vermeulen might call “the end of humanism by insisting that the discrete, disembodied entity of the human never existed” (123). Not only is a conviction in human(ist) exceptionality a sham, but the specious specialness we ascribe to those who count as human inevitably rests on privilege and prejudice.As Katherine Hayles points out,“the conception of the human . . . may have [only ever] applied, at best, to that fraction of humanity who had the wealth, power, and leisure to conceptualize themselves as autonomous beings exercising their will through individual agency and choice” (286). Moreover, such will, agency, and choice are implicitly attributed to and assembled by a humanist “he.”After all, as Rosi Braidotti reminds us,“[h]umanity is very much a male of the species,”a“white,European, handsome and able-bodied” paragon favored by his own self-wrought singularity and sovereignty, mastery and its master signifiers: language (24). As an otkazat’sya—the Ravkan word for “orphan,” for “abandoned,” as well as the word to designate those born without superhuman Grisha talents (SB, ch. 10)1 —the Grisha trilogy’s Alina Starkov incorporates the borderline between those endowed with power and privilege and those with neither. As the series progresses, her body troubles immaculate masculinist ontologies that divide those who count as human in the phallogocentric discourse of modernity from those monstrous Others who—by virtue of age, race, sex, gender, or ability—do not. Indeed,Alina’s subjectivity is“fragmented and plural ,” epitomizing Victoria Flanagan’s understanding of posthumanist identity as favoring “a focus on the process of becoming (rather than being)” (52). In this way, too,Alina is otkazat’sya—a portmanteau term that assigns a nominal condition, a state of being, to Alina’s existence while also ascribing to it a verbal function, an act of becoming, derived from the Russian verb otkazat’sia: to abandon...


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