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Date of Award

11-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Supervisor

Professor Ronald Granofsky

Abstract

My dissertation examines the heretofore unexamined dovetailing of concerns and motifs found in environmental, science-fiction, romantic, and post-apocalyptic narratives. In particular, I focus upon contemporary renderings of architectural ruins, vegetation, children, and depopulated landscapes. These broadly romantic tropes of the nineteenth century, I argue, are reworked in post-World War II fictions and writings to yield now commonplace ecological and post-apocalyptic motifs. Typically, post-cataclysmic landscapes are endowed with a sometimes uncanny fecundity, which can signal both healthy, consoling growth and also the dominion of a toxic, "postnatural" nature that is working to rid itself of humans and human infrastructures. The narratives I examine are, then, often poised between affirming an optimistic humanism and, perhaps unwittingly, a more nihilistic ideology, one which in some versions values non-anthropocentric ecology over urbanism and human life. As such, many of the narratives I examine anticipate contemporary forms of radical environmentalism.

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