Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Dr. Paul Reich

Second Advisor

Dr. Martha Cheng

Third Advisor

Dr. Leslie Poole

Abstract

In contemporary works, dystopian and apocalyptic texts are not inherently pessimistic; instead, utopian idealism, predicated on hope for a better world, manifests itself in a return to the past. For instance, dystopian and apocalyptic works often condemn industrialized societies that foment poverty, corruption, and ecological distress. Rather, the texts idealize smaller communities that practice agrarianism and hunting and gathering. This shift in societal models reflects a romanticized version of a simpler life. By integrating aspects from the past into the future, societies return to a more economically, socially, and ecologically balanced state. As articulated in “Rural URBAN Eutopias,” “[u]topian propositions usually represent non-existent, ideal, imaginary or even romantic places of the past . . . Common among these places are remembered atmospheres of harmony, peacefulness and well-being, and experiments in social order” (Tabb 1). In this vein, authors create societies that construct the traditional idealized past as superior to the present. However, traditional is relative. As times change, so do interpretations of the past. Given that the past constantly expands, what constitutes tradition constantly expands as well. Now, utopia manifests itself in apocalyptic and dystopian texts; however, the impulse to envision a better condition remains consistent in a return to the glorified past. In the following chapters, I examine apocalyptic and dystopian texts, focusing on hope for the future especially in relation to the past. To add perspective, I also assess a counter narrative—Station Eleven for apocalyptic and Never Let Me Go for dystopian—at the end of each chapter that challenges genre expectations. In doing so, I hope to further emphasize the inherent relativity of utopian visions and of the idealized past.

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