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Saving the Present: Material Feminist Readings of Canadian and U.S. Post-Apocalyptic Fiction of the Twenty-first Century

  • Author / Creator
    Annika Rosanowski
  • Saving the Present embarks on a journey through recent Canadian, Métis, and American post-apocalyptic fiction of the twenty-first century to discover the means by which the apocalyptic setting is overcome. This study takes current developments in climate change and the intersection between the human, the animal, and the machine as the backdrop which informs its inquiries with the aim to demonstrate that the post-apocalyptic novel not only takes up contemporary anxieties, but that it also often imagines counter-scenarios that involve a reckoning with humanity’s entanglements. In fact, it is humanity’s inextricable entanglement with the nonhuman world which “reverses” the apocalyptic scenario and enables a more optimistic future in the post-apocalyptic narratives in my study. Throughout my chapters, I employ close reading informed by material feminist theory to attend to these entanglements. I therefore examine the lived experiences of “fleshy” bodies, but also their relation to “matter,” such as the ways in which the environment and the human body are mutually affected by each other—their “trans-corporeality” (Alaimo). My methodology practises what Donna Haraway has referred to as “situated knowledge;” I close read these novels, thereby rejecting universals in favour of the position of specific bodies. Attending to these entanglements supports Rosi Braidotti’s argument that it is “in the ordinary micro-practices of everyday life” that “a humble kind of hope” for a sustainable future can be cultivated, as it is often through ordinary things, such as the passing on of a paperweight in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or the storytelling in Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, that the apocalypse is reversed. Each chapter of my project focuses on a particular type of entanglement: The body as a site of inequality; the intra-action—Barad’s conceptualization of subject/object relations, which, rather than being pre-existing, result out of the interaction between entities—of the characters and the objects around them; the trans-corporeality of the human body as it is enmeshed in the post-apocalypse world; and the ethics that inform the future communities at the close of the novel. In short, by focusing on the body and its relations to the nonhuman world I demonstrate the vital role that bodily entanglements play for reversing the apocalypse in post-apocalyptic fiction.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-n7qa-kg79
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.