Unnaturally natural: subjectivity and place in contemporary young adult dystopian fiction
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:20 authored by Stephanie Thompson
Contemporary young adult dystopian fiction challenges adolescent readers to think about current social and political issues, and engage in debates about the relationship between people, technology, and nature. Above all, these narratives provide an opportunity for young people to consider and challenge the hierarchies that exist between these, and their own role in reinforcing or dismantling them. This thesis explores the representation of place and subjectivity in contemporary young adult dystopian fiction. My analysis of such narratives draws from ecocritical and posthumanist theories. While both ecocriticism and posthumanism have been (and continue to be) addressed separately in children's literature, it is through considering both theoretical approaches that the greater cultural debate of people, nature, and technology can be addressed. An ecocritical approach to the posthuman subject provides a framework within which the relationship between place and subjectivity in young adult fiction can be explored and understood. In addition to these theoretical approaches, I draw upon a topoanalytical approach to dystopian fiction for young adults from Jane Suzanne Carroll's study of British children's fantasy fiction. A topoanalytical approach to contemporary dystopian fiction for young adults highlights the relationship between place and subjectivity in these narratives. Michel Foucault's concept of heterotopic spaces is also influential in my textual analysis, which demonstrates how places tend to function to suppress or reward the development of subjectivity. The relationship between place and subjectivity in young adult fiction addresses the greater cultural debate of people, technology, nature, and their place in the twenty-first century. This thesis closely analyses contemporary young adult dystopian fiction that allows the adolescent reader to interrogate subjectivity through the perspective of posthuman protagonists that focalise the experience of identity-formation resulting from their relationship to place. I contend that individual subjectivity is embedded in the environment, and the individual's engagement with and perception of place informs their development of subjectivity. Contemporary young adult dystopian fiction narratives strategically use the environment to illustrate aspects of identity-formation. The protagonist's relationship to the spaces and places depicted in these narratives informs their development of subjectivity. The textual analysis in this thesis demonstrates how contemporary young adult dystopian fiction engages with ideas from posthumanism and ecocriticism, and represents place and place-connectedness as integral to the construction of a posthuman subjectivity -- abstract.