Posthumanism in Young Adult FictionFinding Humanity in a Posthuman World

Posthumanism in Young Adult FictionFinding Humanity in a Posthuman World

Anita Tarr and Donna R. White

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496816696

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

Posthumanism in Young Adult Fiction: Finding Humanity in a Posthuman World, edited by Anita Tarr and Donna White, is a collection of twelve essays analyzing young adult science fiction and fantasy in terms of how representative contemporary YA books’ authors describe and their characters portray elements of posthumanist attitudes. The authors give a brief survey of theorists’ discussions of how posthumanism rejects—but does not entirely forsake—liberal humanist tenets. Primarily, posthumanism calls for embracing the Other, eliminating binaries that separate human and nonhuman, human and nature, organic and inorganic, stressing the process of always-becoming. Due to technological enhancements, we should recognize that our species is changing, as it always has, becoming more networked and communal, fluid and changeable. Posthumanism does not mandate cyborgs, cloning, genetic enhancement, animal-human hybrids, mutations, advanced prosthetics, and superhuman strengths—although all of these are discussed in the collected essays. Posthumanism generally upholds liberal humanist values of compassion, fairness, and ethical responsibility, but dismantles the core of anthropocentrism: the notion that humans are superior and dominant over all other species and have the right to control, exploit, destroy, or marginalize those who are not the ideal white, able-bodied male. The more we discover about humans, the more we question our exceptionality; that is, since we co-evolved with many other organisms, especially bacteria, there is no DNA genome that is uniquely human; since we share many traits with animals, there is no single trait that defines us as human or as not human (such as using tools, speaking language, having a soul, expressing emotions, being totally organic, having a sense of wonder). The twelve essayists do not propose that YA fiction should offer guidelines for negotiating posthumanist subjectivity—being fragmented and multiple, networked vulnerable—though many of the novels analyzed actually do this. Other novelists bring their adolescent characters to the brink, but do not allow them to move beyond the familiar structures of society, even if they are rebelling against those very structures. Indeed, adolescence and posthumanism share many elements, especially anxieties about future possibilities, embracing new ideas and new selves, and being in a liminal state of in-between-ness that does not resolve itself. In other words, young adult fiction is the ideal venue to explore how we are now or we might in the future maintain our humanity in a posthuman world.

Table of Contents

Part I Networked Subjectivities

Part II The Monstrous Other: Posthuman Bodies

3 Once upon a Cyborg

Angela S. Insenga

4 The Adolescent Posthuman

Ferne Merrylees

Part III Posthumanism in Climate Fiction

Part IV Accepting/Rejecting Posthumanist Possibilities

11 Posthumanist Magic

Tony M. Vinci