Sunday, 28 August 2011

Young adult fiction and the cult of the brain

I have set a deadline for myself to have my PhD confirmation seminar done and dusted by the end of March 2012. Easy peasy! Well, not really, but to get myself started my supervisor asked me to work out a draft outline for my thesis, and then draft up a rough introduction. I gave her my draft outline a few weeks ago (it was then I discovered that I was a post-structuralist of sorts, whatever that means) and today I have finally got around to drafting an intro.

Doing these two exercises has made one thing pretty clear: my PhD 'problem' has changed from what I wrote it would be in my formal proposal last year. This is, I think, a good thing. For starters, I actually think I have a real problem to solve, one that won't solve world poverty but is definitely worthwhile looking at. In a nutshell, it's this:

How should young adult fiction filter and represent the rise of neuroscience into all aspects of life – the cult of the brain - within its narratives?

Let's face it, barely a day goes by without the media using a headline with the word "neuro" in it. We have neuro-ethics, neuro-marketing, neuro-revolution, neuro-economics, just to name a few. A new book by Davi Johnson Thornton, Brain Culture: neuroscience and popular media, "looks at how the cerebral cortex has become a 21st century version of Warhol's soup cans or Marilyn Monroes". (It's on my to-read list, along with The neuro revolution: how brain science is changing our world, and a dozen or so other brain-related popular titles.) Brain-related this or that is everywhere. And yet, it has very thin representation in young adult fiction.

This intrigues me. After all, it's today's adolescents that are growing up into this brain-obsessed world. And many of the decisions being made for children and young adults are impacted by this neuro-obsession, including decisions about education and the law. It is a big thing, to big to ignore in writing for young adults.

I'm interested to know what novels for young adults are out there at the moment that people consider tackle the implications of the 21st century's 'cult of the brain' in some way. In what ways (if at all) is this topic being addressed in young adult fiction? What are some of the ways people think it should be, or would like to see it be, addressed?

Let me know, please - I need all the help with my thesis I can get!