Finding Our Humanity in a Post-Human World

full name / name of organization: 
Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr
contact email: 
dwhite@atu.edu

Editors Donna White and Anita Tarr are seeking submissions for a volume of essays on children’s and young adult literature entitled Finding Our Humanity in a Post-Human World.

We use the term humanity to refer to what we feel is a necessary part of being human: compassion, kindness, concern for fellow humans. Humanity incorporates the full range of physical, mental, and emotional capacities our species has developed primarily through natural means. Post-human is an emerging concept, with no settled-upon definition; while we are using post-human generally to mean both “beyond” and “after” human, we are open to other definitions as well. Post-human can refer to extreme changes in the range of the above-mentioned capacities due to technological, medical, or evolutionary enhancements or accidents as well as to the postulated existence of human-like beings that have different capacities or are created by means perceived as unnatural (e.g. Frankenstein’s creature or clones).

Our focus is on children’s and YA print literature but extends to other media with this same targeted audience (computer games, graphic novels, etc.). We are interested in essays analyzing post-apocalyptic scenarios; cyborg Cinderellas; genetic engineering; cloning; xenomorphic aliens; body issues and paranoia; the paranormal; and beast/human hybrids. However, we are certainly open to other interpretations of our theme. We are not looking for religious tracts, but we are not excluding discussions of spiritual themes.

Some basic questions include the following:
• What do we mean by post-human? If one is beyond-human, or after-human, is one no longer human? What texts have you seen that proffer this concept?
• Humans are already changing with technical enhancement, presumably even more so in the future. Are humans evolving even without technical enhancement, as with Lyra in The Golden Compass series (or even in The Time-Traveler’s Wife)?
• Is there an ethical responsibility for children’s/YA authors to guide their readers to humanitarian ideas and actions? Is such a responsibility too constraining, too self-censoring, too artificial?
• Can there be a compromise between the post-human advances that threaten all of humankind and the benefits of post-human alterations?
• Children’s/YA literature has often promoted moral messages by having a character resist fascist regimes, as in The Book Thief. Do post-humans pose an equal threat to such human values as compassion?
• Are there general gender differences regarding visions of post-human individuals that are evident in children’s/YA media?
• Consider Orson Scott Card’s female-voiced Jane, a computer brain, that abandons its power grid in order to be embodied (Pygmalian-like) as a real human female; in the Aliens film series, the appellation of the spaceship’s computer as “Mother”; or the recurring depiction of aliens in science fiction as all-consuming Queen Bees.
• Obviously, graphic novels, from Superman onward, contain ready images of post-human entities. How might the interplay between pictures and words affect readers regarding their impressions of post-humans?
• Where is the border between human and post-human?
• Several philosophers have suggested that digital natives are already post-human—that computers, smart phones, and other gadgets have rewired young people’s brains beyond the understanding of older generations. How does children’s/YA literature respond to that suggestion?
• Television offers several sympathetic characters who are “functioning sociopaths” (PBS’s Sherlock Holmes) and homicidal psychopaths (Dexter). Does children’s/YA literature offer similar characters? Do they (like Star Trek’s Data) feel they should become more human by engaging feelings and becoming socially adept?

Please send abstracts (approximately 500 words) to Donna White at dwhite@atu.edu by May 30, 2014.

cfp categories: 
childrens_literature
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ecocriticism_and_environmental_studies
film_and_television
journals_and_collections_of_essays
popular_culture
twentieth_century_and_beyond