A Study of the Apocalyptic & Post-apocalyptic Interest in Modern Society

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Sabrina Christensen Søgaard
4. semester, Engelsk, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In recent years the interest in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictions has increased significantly. With this development in mind, the primary goal for this thesis was to examine how the interest has grown, why it has grown, as well as researching and analysing the similarities and differences between older apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fictions and modern fictions of these genres. This was done by including the works of select theoreticians, along with conflicting opinions pertaining to the subject of apocalypse, the meaning of apocalypse to humanity, as well as incorporating various fictions from popular culture to see how these fictions differ from each other while sharing the same overall storyline; the apocalypse.

To put the apocalyptic into context, the historical aspects of apocalypse were scrutinized, discovering that apocalypse tends to present itself in cycles, reappearing periodically as a result of war, illness, natural disaster, doomsday theories or similar apocalyptic events. The present cycle of apocalypse seems to have lingered since WWII, which is argued to have been the greatest apocalyptic tragedy of the Western World in modern times. Furthermore, the considerable interest in apocalypse was also found to present itself by crossing both different media and different genres. With regards to media, the genres were found to have developed from being solely communicated through literature to also include the mediums of film, TV-series, comics and PC/online games. Though it can be argued that this is a natural development, occurring as different media become mainstream, it also speaks of an interest on the behalf of consumers. In comparison, the genres have also expanded to include various hybrid genres, often combining horror, romance, adventure and drama. Furthermore, it was found that a distinct number of apocalyptic fictions also incorporate dystopian undertones, consistently implementing dystopia as an apocalyptic side-effect. Moreover, the genres speak to both an adult and a young adult audience and in recent years several apocalyptic fictions have become bestsellers, demonstrating that there is a vast interest in the genres and that they are appealing to diverse audiences.

To exemplify the similarities and differences of fictions of the same genre, but from different historical periods, two literary works were chosen for analysis: After London (1885) by Richard Jefferies and The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy. Both analyses have been put into a historical context and the relevance for their contemporary societies has likewise been discussed. It was determined that both fictions had a shared interest in displaying the depravation of humanity, but The Road had a more explicit approach to elucidating this. Additionally, it is discussed that the explicitness of The Road can arguably be attributed to the historical trauma of WWII, as images present in the novel can be interpreted as direct references to death camps and prisoners of war. After London is both a critique of contemporary society as well as an optimistic desire that humanity can better itself. Both novels juxtapose hope and hopelessness, leaving the outcome and interpretation up to the individual reader.

The ongoing and intensified interest in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictions has been found to be significant for society, as these fictions often work as outlets for general anxieties. The outcomes of humanity are explored through fictions and they function both as a lesson and a warning. The fictions can, for instance, work as a warning of a current crisis, such as climate change, that could become apocalyptic in nature if proper precautions are not taken. Alternatively, the apocalyptic narratives may also illustrate both the author's and the public's integrated need for a New Jerusalem; a new world order. The expanding popularity and complexity of the genre can be seen as an authentic need for certain traumas to be communicated through worst-case scenarios, so that they may eventually be processed.
Udgivelsesdato28 maj 2015
Antal sider80
ID: 213096203