Angel Time in the Undiscovered Country: The Cultural and Philosophical Context of Contemporary Afterlife Fiction for Young Adults

In recent years, fiction specifically set in or about the afterlife has become a popular,critically acclaimed sub-genre within contemporary speculative fiction for young adults, especially but not only in English-language publishing. These narratives, where the main characters die at the beginning of the story and find themselves in a world beyond death, have evolved within a rich cultural context, including inspirations from folklore, philosophy, mythology, religion, adult literature both classic and contemporary, and contemporary screen-based narratives.Young adult afterlife fiction depicts ‘the undiscovered country’, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet called it, as a transitional, liminal world. These are not the ‘absolute’ territories of heaven, or hell, but afterworlds resembling Purgatory and Hades, or similar in-between territories found in traditional beliefs and cultures around the world. Little is fixed, with the instability of territory reflecting the instability of characters’ cultural and personal identities in the world of the dead. And a high degree of individuation is also present, amongst which is that in most of these novels God is absent, which may reflect the beliefs of contemporary young adults. Yet while young adult afterlife novels avoid overt religious messages, they do not shy away from challenging explorations of life and death.In this paper, the author, an established novelist for young adults, as well as a PHD student in Creative Practice whose doctoral work includes the first substantial analysis of young adult afterlife fiction, profiles the intriguing cultural and philosophical questions raised by this fascinating literary sub-genre.

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Author Information
Sophie Masson, University of New England, Australia

Paper Information Conference: ACERP2018
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and the Arts

Added on Monday, April 9th, 2018

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