So, the initial concept of posthumanism is not too difficult to grasp. Humanism believes in individual autonomy and agency. This puts human beings at the center stage, and often times at odds with the non-human, such as nature. But the posthumanists see this exceptionalism as humanism's greatest flaw. They use Derridean deconstruction to break down this framework that for so long has propped human beings above nature and instead places them within nature, as a part of the machine rather than the observer or operator. As Donna Haraway explains in her seminal The Cyborg Manifesto, humans are not set apart from the world, but "are tangled in it."
Haraway and Bertens spell out how we came to see ourselves outside of nature, and it mostly comes down to the Western Christian belief of dominion. In the Old Testament, God tells Adam that he will have dominion over the creatures and the plants and the future laffy taffy factories. So right away in Genesis, we see a deep-seeded religious belief that the Judeo-Christian is outside of his natural world, set apart and set above. This seems at odds with some of the Eastern beliefs that instead hold harmony with nature in very high regard. And if we are slated to hold dominion over the other species and over Mother Nature herself, that means we are in charge and can make decisions like cutting down the rainforest, use pesticides, hunt animals to extinction, etc, etc. I mean, the good Lord put those things here for our disposal, right? And now multiple countries who heartily dislike each other sit on an arsenal of nuclear weapons that, if used, could not only wipe us out, but wipe out much of life in general. Pretty exciting, huh?
This version of posthumanism has given rise to ecocriticism. With the same concept at heart (that humans are not the central figures in the world), ecocriticism began as a warning about the dangers of treating nature with disregard. Historically, too, nature has held a very prominent place within literature, often on one of two extremes. Many times, we see nature and love of nature as good and positive, while evil and darkness treats nature with contempt, or with TOXIC LOVE.
Bertens uses a great example from The Lord of the Rings in that Mordor is a volcanic wasteland, while the Shire is a beautiful, green and serene location. So there is this connection between nature and goodness. On the other hand, nature has been often portrayed as an enemy, or a place to be tested. J.K. Rowling's Forbidden Forest, Jack London's Yukon, Herman Melville's white whale. Regardless of its use, nature factors in greatly into literature. The ecocriticism then "seeks to evaluate texts and ideas in terms of their coherence and usefulness as responses to environmental crises." This is only natural, as we have seen generation after generation put just a little more weight on the foot that rests on the neck of the Earth. Our carbon emissions, our destruction of the forests, our using the ocean as a garbage dump--these are real crises, regardless of what the Trump administration may tell you. Then, will we look at texts and literature for answers, examples, and failures that placed humans forever above their natural habitats. And we try to solve these problems.
There is one glaring problem with these ideas: that ecocritics would then know, or have some idea of what the world really is. If we ruined the world and it must be returned to its original state, we must have some idea as to what that natural state was. But many would say that we can't really know what the world really is, or that there are so many interpretations and conceptions about the world that there's no telling what this original state could have been. For instance, if it were up to me, I would fix things to rebuild the world that I know!
One of the more popular deconstructions within posthumanism is that between organic and machine. Haraway touches on this in The Cyborg Manifesto. And I think one of the most interesting things brought up is the idea of the technology of today's language. When I send a text to a friend, it carries information and ideas through English language, but underneath it, unseen by me or the reader, is a coded language of zeros and ones. How much do we need technology now to "be" human? And if the answer is quite a bit, then how human are we really? Here I am typing this mumbo jumbo out on an expensive computer with a bunch of one's and zero's uploading my shitty ideas onto a silly blog so that I can pass a course that is taught in a language I can't even understand! WHAT A WORLD!
And lastly, I will just mention this weird connection to animals. In the same way that we have shown that humans are not above nature, we can also single out animals as specifically being attached to humans which makes us not so human. We eat them, tame them, cuddle with them, use them for work, and sometimes really weird and deranged people have sex with them!
Anyway, these relationships also are deconstructed and people look at literature and instead of viewing nature through the post-humanism lens, they look specifically at animals and human interaction with animals. But most animals are gross or scary, so whatever.