by Zoe Jaques

About Zoe Jaques

Zoe Jaques is the author of Children’s Literature and the Posthuman (2015) and co-author of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: A Publishing History (2013). She is also one of the general editors of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Children’s Literature in English (2022). She has received research fellowships from the Houghton Library at Harvard University, the Baldwin Library at the University of Florida, Kent State University, and the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.


The word posthuman can engender anxiety. Like all posts-, the prefix suggests transition, rejection and moving beyond what came before. The posthuman, then, implies an existence after the human—a prospect evolutionary biology teaches any species to eschew. That the OED traces its first use (as the hyphenated post-human) to a discussion of eugenics in Maurice Parmalee’s Poverty and Social Progress (1916) does little to mitigate such disquiet. The dictionary’s secondary descriptors are hardly more buoyant: “abstract, impersonal, mechanistic, dispassionate” (OED). In the face of such a dismal ontological state that we, as the humans in question, are taught to resist, is it any wonder that we might be skeptical of a term that seems distancing at best and outright apocalyptic at worst?