Posthuman Female Identities and Cyborg Alices in Orphan Black

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Akgün B.

Hacettepe Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, vol.36, no.1, pp.51-60, 2019 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)


This article scrutinizes the reception of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871) in the television series Orphan Black (2013-2017) through the lenses of posthuman and feminist theories. It argues that, reminiscent of Alice’s coming of age anxieties, in the series the self-aware female clones, called the Leda clones, go through their own identity crisis, which can be traced in their near-death experiences followed by metaphorical rebirths and in their conversations with their sestras through mirrors or mirror-like objects. It focuses on these clones’ process of becoming self-aware with regard to the demands of the posthuman condition and the call of Rosi Braidotti for new ways of subject formation. It analyses the clones’ process of becoming through Julia Kristeva’s theories of the mirror phase, the symbolic, and the semiotic. It suggests that these self-aware Leda clones might be read as Donna J. Haraway’s cyborg Alices, in that they explore cyborg female identities in the twenty-first century. These clones eventually overcome their existential crisis and their anxieties over shifting identities through community bonding. Meanwhile, the allusions to the Alice books serve as a source of symbolism and structure for the series. Like the guidance and council of the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat, they provide guideposts for the deepening, darkening, and branching Orphan Black universe to prevent the viewers from getting confused or lost as they follow the Leda clones deeper into the rabbit hole and through the looking glass.

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