Corporeality, Genetic Technology, and Climate Change in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

Young-hyun Lee

Published Date: Feb 28, 2022


In her novel The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood vividly illustrates the unmistakable impact of climate change on people’s lives these days. Genetic manipulation has become one of the technologies that people have grown dependent on to solve environmental problems in this age of climate change, where severe droughts, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and the like are being reported more frequently than ever. But genetic engineering has profound consequences for human corporealities, as both COVID-19 and The Year of the Flood show. In the novel, Atwood presents a world where humanity finds it hardly possible to survive without genetic fiddling. We find ourselves in a similar situation in real life, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic where genetic alteration technology is essential: studies have shown that vaccination using genetic engineering is the best way to halt the spread of the virus, but no one can give a definite answer to its long-term effects on bodies. Atwood illustrates through the Paradice Project episode in the novel that such a genetic experiment can make the ecological future more uncertain and unstable in the age of climate crisis. Though a few monopolistic multinational GMO companies touted genetic engineering technologies as a benevolent solution, it has become evident that they are only doing so for their own profit, as exemplified by the Vitamin pill episode in the novel. . In the real world and in The Year of the Flood, climate change and multinational capitalism exert a bad influence on biodiversity. With human and nonhuman animal bodies being mistreated more than ever as materials for the gene industry, Atwood shows how badly women are exploited in an age of genetic engineering. As we depend too much on genetic technologies, we tend to overlook the small but influential agencies within human and nonhuman assemblages, which result in dismissing the entanglement between human and nonhuman beings.


gene technologies, genetic alteration, human corporealities, climate change, trans-corporeality, Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood, pandemic, capitalism

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)