The New World of the Post-Apocalyptic Imagination

ABSTRACT THE NEW WORLD OF THE POST-APOCALYPTIC IMAGINATION by © Karl Becker 2010 Master of Arts in English California State University, Chico Spring 2010 In light of a recent explosion of post-apocalyptic narratives in popular film and literature, this thesis approaches an analysis of the genre as a means of expressing deep-seated anxiety about modern consumer practices and their perceived eventual outcomes. The project explores the literary tropes that illustrate materialist practices in American culture in both post-apocalyptic works of fiction and early European encounter literature, particularly the interaction between the indigenous inhabitants and explorers of the New World and their post-apocalyptic antecedents. By examining narrative elements of the 2007 film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend and Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road, this thesis will discuss the postapocalyptic genre as a modern transposition of pre-colonial encounter narratives. The discussion will reveal that many of the motives underlying the Conquest of the Americas shape post-apocalyptic narratives, even where they perform different functions. vii While the post-apocalyptic genre attempts to communicate hypothetical outcomes to modern consumer practices, they prove also to fulfill a consumer fantasy as it is perpetuated by images of destruction, depopulation, unlimited materialism, and nightmare inhabitants that recall details from America’s imperial past.