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Losing My Wings: Supernatural Fables of Development by Phillip S. Thurtle

  • Stauffer B-Wing, B125, Tempe Campus​​​​​​​ Tempe, Arizona United States of America (map)

(hosted by the School of Arts, Media + Engineering)  


This is a remarkable time in the history of biological thought. Experiments during the past few decades have changed scientist’s views of how genes contribute to evolution and development. The “Losing My Wings” project provides a dynamic way to explore the literary, cultural, political, and biological implications of these changes. The project is anchored by an interactive, multimodal online site that uses key (or supernatural) moments in narratives of the human, or humanoid loss of wings in science, film, and science fiction. Recent studies in evolution and development tell us that humans possess all the molecular machinery needed to develop wings. The fact that they do not has haunted stories of personal and social transformation for millennia.


Phillip Thurtle is acting director of CHID through Winter Quarter 2017 and is associate professor in CHID and History. He received his PhD in history and the philosophy of science from Stanford University. He is the author of The Emergence of Genetic Rationality: Space, Time, and Information in American Biology 1870-1920 (University of Washington Press, 2008), the co-author with Robert Mitchell (English, Duke University) and Helen Burgess (English, University of Maryland) of the interactive DVD-ROM BioFutures: Owning Information an Body Parts (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), and the co-editor with Robert Mitchell of the volumes Data Made Flesh: Embodying Information (Routledge, 2003) and Semiotic Flesh: Information and the Human Body (University of Washington Press, 2002). His research focuses on the material culture of information processing, the affective-phenomenological domains of media, the role of information processing technologies in biomedical research, and theories of novelty in the life sciences. His most recent work is on the cellular spaces of transformation in evolutionary and developmental biology research and the cultural spaces of transformation in superhero comics.