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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Visions of after the End: A History and Theory of the Post-apocalyptic Genre in Literature and Film
by Stifflemire, Brett Samuel, Ph.D., The University of Alabama, 2017, 305; 10635886
Abstract (Summary)

Textual genre criticism and close readings of novels and films reveal that, in addition to chronicling catastrophes’ aftermaths, the post-apocalyptic genre envisions a future world in which traditional apocalyptic ideology is inadequate and unsatisfactory. While the full apocalyptic trajectory traditionally includes an end met by a new beginning, moments of cultural crisis have questioned the efficacy of apocalyptic metanarratives, allowing for a divergent, post-apocalyptic imagination that has been reflected in various fictional forms.

The post-apocalyptic genre imagines a post-cataclysmic world cobbled together from the remnants of our world and invites complicated participation as readers and viewers engage with a world that resembles our own yet is bereft of our world’s meaning-making structures. The cultural history of the genre is traced through early nineteenth-century concerns about plagues and revolutions; fin-de-siècle anxieties and the devastation of the First World War; the post-apocalyptic turn in the cultural imagination following the Second World War, the atomic bombs, and the Holocaust; the Cold War and societal tensions of the 1960s and 1970s; late twentieth-century nationalism and relaxation of Cold War tension; and renewed interest in post-apocalypticism following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Textual analysis reveals that the genre is particularly interested in formal experimentation and other postmodernist ideas, carnivalesque transgression, and concerns about survivorship and community. The mobilization of these themes is examined in case studies of the novella “A Boy and His Dog,” the novels The Quiet Earth and The Road, and the films Idaho Transfer, Night of the Comet, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Butler, Jeremy
Commitee: Black, Jason, Horsley, Suzanne, Warner, Kristen, Whiting, Fred
School: The University of Alabama
Department: Communication & Information Sciences
School Location: United States -- Alabama
Source: DAI-A 79/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature, Film studies
Keywords: Apocalypse, Carnivalesque, Cultural studies, Genre studies, Post-apocalypse, Postmodernism
Publication Number: 10635886
ISBN: 978-0-355-67074-5
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