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The postapocalyptic imagination

Doyle, B. (2015) The postapocalyptic imagination. Thesis Eleven, 131 (1). pp. 99-113.

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Apocalypse as a literary genre, as well as a political and religious agenda, has been criticized by writers such as Lee Quinby and Katherine Keller for its formula, which tends toward punishment for transgression and salvation of an elect. These same writers critique postapocalypse for its propensity for nihilism and portrayal of a human species ‘beyond redemption’. But perhaps it is precisely this refusal to redeem that endows postapocalypse with dangerous possibilities. The postapocalypse does not have to be considered (and subsequently neutralized) via the same moral underpinnings that structure apocalypse. This paper frames postapocalypse not as a literature of pessimism or warning but as a radical context to explore dangerous possibilities without rehearsing apocalypse’s characteristic damnation, salvation and enforcement of a horizon of revelation that simultaneously works to obliterate aberrant possibilities. In order to explore these claims, the process of thinking beyond revelation in apocalypse is defined here as ‘the postapocalyptic imagination’. Its expressions are found in postapocalyptic texts, but also in other kinds of texts that respond to, and in some cases resist, the teleological drive of late capitalist narratives of endless progress. The postapocalyptic world is host to mutations, amalgamations and strange appropriations of forms and ideas left in the wreckage beyond the end. It is the task of the postapocalyptic imagination to explore what possibilities these ‘abominations’ might offer. This paper considers the motifs, characters and settings of postapocalyptic texts, alongside some of the anxieties and critiques they express.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Sage Publications
Copyright: © 2015 by Thesis Eleven Pty, Ltd
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