Coughing and sneezing to the end of the world: Apocalyptic pandemic narratives in the 21st century

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2013-01-01
Authors
Schut, Luke
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Matthew W. Sivils
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English
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English
Abstract

This analysis of apocalyptic disease narratives seeks to understand the purpose and appeal of these stories in the 21st century. As humans have created and become reliant on increasingly advanced and powerful technology, the apocalyptic narrative has become more common genre, and the disease variant has emerged in the 21st century as a popular variety. The first chapter of this analysis defines the apocalyptic narrative by identifying the features and themes that distinguish it from the catastrophe narrative. The apocalyptic narrative then gets split into three distinct sub-genres based on the source of the catastrophe. Once the apocalyptic genre has been defined, an examination of disease in the past century establishes the relevance of the apocalyptic pandemic scenario by looking at modern infection events, their causes, and their effects. Next, a critical examination of Danny Boyle's film 28 Days Later uses the macroscopic infection presented by the Rage virus to show the disease phobia present in Western society. An analysis of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy then explores the connections between contemporary technophobia and apocalyptic plague, leading into an examination of the post-apocalyptic scenarios presented after the plague in the MaddAddam trilogy and the television program Survivors to understand how the desire for a simpler life present in Western culture makes the pandemic apocalyptic narrative appealing. Altogether, this critical exploration of the recent revival of interest in pandemic apocalyptic scenarios establishes the contemporary relevance of these stories, their origins in modern technophobia, and the appeal the end of the world holds for Western readers.

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