Towards a Posthumanist Conceptualization of Society: Biotechnology in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation

  • Pia Balsmeier
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter investigates how current controversial biotechnological advancements, particularly regarding genetically modified food, enable conceptual as well as ontological changes of humanity and the human. Drawing on debates in the field of posthumanism in my analysis of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and Ruth Ozeki’s novel All Over Creation, I demonstrate the significance of literary contributions to the topic. From an ethical vantage point grounded in critical posthumanism, I explore how imaginations of biotechnology impact on concepts of posthuman society. Ultimately, I argue, anthropocentric and essentialist views on identity, race, gender, and family can be overcome by more valuable connectivities based on elective affiliations offered in the texts.

Works Cited

  1. Abrams, M.H. (1999). “Utopias and Dystopias.” A Glossary of Literary Terms. Seventh Edition. Heinle & Heinle. 327–328.Google Scholar
  2. Atwood, Margaret (2003). Oryx and Crake. London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  3. ——— (2009). The Year of the Flood. London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  4. ——— (2010). “Atwood on Science, Fiction and ‘The Flood.’” Author Interviews. By Jane Ciabattari. Heard on Talk of the Nation, 20 Aug. 2010. Web.Google Scholar
  5. ——— (2013). MaddAddam. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Bartosch, Roman (2012). “Literary Quality and the Ethics of Reading: Some Thoughts on Literary Evolution and the Fiction of Margaret Atwood, Ilija Trojanow, and Ian McEwan.” Literature, Ecology, Ethics: Recent Trends in Ecocriticism. Eds. Timo Müller and Michael Sauter. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. 113–128.Google Scholar
  7. Borrell, Sally (2009). Challenging Humanism: Human-Animal Relations in Recent Postcolonial Novels. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Middlesex University. Web. 5 Feb. 2018. <>.
  8. Bouson, Jane Brooks (2004). “‘It’s Game Over Forever’: Atwood’s Satiric Vision of a Bioengineered Posthuman Future in Oryx and Crake.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 39.3: 139–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ——— (2015). “A ‘Joke-Filled Romp’ through End Rimes: Radical Environmentalism, Deep Ecology, and Human Extinction in Margaret Atwood’s Eco-Apocalyptic MaddAddam Trilogy.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 51.3: 1–17.Google Scholar
  10. Canton, James (2004). “Designing the Future: NBIC Technologies and Human Performance Enhancement.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1013: 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cardozo, Karen and Banu Subramaniam (2011). “Truth is Stranger: The Postnational ‘Aliens’ of Biofiction.” The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction. Eds. Masood A. Raja, Jason W. Ellis, and Swaralipi Nandi. Jefferson and London: McFarland & Company. 30–45.Google Scholar
  12. Ciobanu, Calina (2014). “Rewriting the Human at the End of the Anthropocene in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy.” Minnesota Review 83: 153–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DiNovella, Elizabeth (2003). “No Small Potatoes.” The Progressive 41: 41–43.Google Scholar
  14. “Dystopia.” Merriam-Webster, no date. Web. 17 May 2018.
  15. Fukuyama, Francis (2002). Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  16. Garrigós, Cristina (2010). “Mixed and Proud of it: Women and Meat in Ruth Ozeki’s Fiction.” Diferencia, (Des)igualdad Y Justicia/Differences, (In)Equality and Justice. Eds. Ana Antón-Pachecco Bravo, et al. Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos. 65–77.Google Scholar
  17. Glover, Jayne (2009). “Human/Nature: Ecological Philosophy in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” English Studies in Africa 52.2: 50–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haraway, Donna J. (1991). Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. London: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  19. Hayles, N. Katherine (1999). How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Herbrechter, Stefan (2013). Posthumanism: A Critical Analysis. Trans. Stefan Herbrechter. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  21. Hoban, Thomas J. (1995). “The Construction of Food Biotechnology as a Social Issue.” Eating Agendas. Food and Nutrition as Social Problems. Eds. Donna Maurer and Jeffery Sobal. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. 189–209.Google Scholar
  22. Höpker, Karin (2014). “A Sense of an Ending—Risk, Catastrophe and Precarious Humanity in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture. Eds. Sylvia Mayer and Alexa Weik von Mossner. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. 161–180.Google Scholar
  23. Jotterand, Fabrice (2010). “At the Roots of Transhumanism: From the Enlightenment to a Post-Human Future.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35: 617–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ladino, Jennifer K. (2008). “Unlikely Alliances: Notes on a Green Culture of Life.” Journal of Religion and Society, Supplement Series 3: 146–158.Google Scholar
  25. Mosca, Valeria (2013). “Crossing Human Boundaries: Apocalypse and Posthumanism in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood.” Altre Modernità 9: 38–52.Google Scholar
  26. Nayar, Pramod K. (2014). Posthumanism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  27. Ozeki, Ruth (2004). “A Conversation with Ruth Ozeki.” Interview. Web. 5 Feb. 2018. <>.
  28. ——— (2006). All Over Creation. London: Picador.Google Scholar
  29. Philbeck, Thomas D. (2014). “Ontology.” Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction. Eds. Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 173–184.Google Scholar
  30. Pollack, Andrew (2015). “Genetically Engineered Salmon Approved for Consumption.” The New York Times. 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2018.Google Scholar
  31. Ranisch, Robert and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (2014). “Introducing Post- and Transhumanism.” Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction. Eds. Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 7–27.Google Scholar
  32. Roddis, Melissa (2013). “‘Someone Else’s Utopia’: The Eco-Posthuman ‘Utopia’ of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” Writing Technologies 5: 19–35.Google Scholar
  33. Roden, David (2015). Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Rouyan, Anahita (2015). “Radical Acts of Cultivation: Ecological Utopianism and Genetically Modified Organisms in Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation.” Utopian Studies 26.1: 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rozelle, Lee (2010). “Liminal Ecologies in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” Canadian Literature 206: 61–72.Google Scholar
  36. Sanderson, Jay (2013). “Pigoons, Rakunks and Crakers: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Genetically Engineered Animals in a (Latourian) Hybrid World.” Law and Humanities 7.2: 218–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sharon, Tamar (2014). Human Nature in an Age of Biotechnology: The Case for Mediated Posthumanism. Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Simon, Bart (2003). “Introduction: Toward a Critique of Posthuman Futures.” Cultural Critique 53: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stein, Karen F. (2010). “Problematic Paradice in Oryx and Crake.” Margaret Atwood: The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake. Ed. J.B. Bouson. London and New York: Continuum. 141–155.Google Scholar
  40. Tiffin, Helen (2007). “Pigs, People and Pigoons.” Knowing Animals. Eds. Laurence Simmons and Philip Armstrong. Leiden: Brill. 244–265.Google Scholar
  41. Wolfe, Cary (2010). What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pia Balsmeier
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CologneCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations