Technology and Identity in Young Adult Fiction

Part of the series Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature pp 11-38

Posthumanism in Young Adult Fiction

  • Victoria Flanagan


At its most basic level, posthumanism — “after” or “beyond” humanism — is a critical discourse that seeks to reformulate and revision the humanist subject in the modern digital era. This, of course, is a major project, which perhaps explains why posthumanism has so many different (and sometimes competing) tenets. Even arriving at a definition seems to be a problematic exercise, because although theorists can agree that posthumanism goes beyond humanism, what this might actually mean or involve in precise terms is up for debate. Cary Wolfe maintains that posthumanism “generates different and even irreconcilable definitions” (2010: xi), while Timothy D. Harfield argues that “polysemy is built into the term ‘posthumanism’ itself, and in such a way as to make agreement with respect to its definition all but impossible” (2013: 266). One of the reasons for this lack of consensus and plurality of meaning lies in relation to exactly how the prefix “post” should be interpreted when applied to the concept of “humanism”. While it might be tempting to view “posthumanism” as a negation of “humanism”, this is not the case — because, as Harfield suggests, the “outright rejection of humanism might serve to perpetuate the very problems that many posthumanists seek to address” (2013: 268).