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MA thesis... literary theory & criticism

mesmerized 1 / 2  
May 17, 2009   #1

I don't want to delve into details (yet) so let me just form a question, wait for your replies, and then elaborate on the subject.

My first question is:

1) What kind of literary criticism would you apply to the subject of (post)apocalyptic fiction and especially to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" ?

Thank you in advance for all insights!

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 17, 2009   #2
A historicist perspective could be interesting -- you could look at how post-apocalyptic scenarios change (or stay the same) depending upon the concerns of the time. So, in the Cold War, you get a lot of post nuclear war scenarios. More recently, the idea of plagues seems to be making a bit of comeback, perhaps fueled by concerns of bio-terror. You'd have to do some research to see if this was tenable.

Alternatively, I'm sure you could probably take a psychoanalytic approach -- how the archetype of the ruined civilization is used in various workings out of our psychological problems.

Or, you could look at how gender / class is portrayed in post-apocalyptic fiction, and go with a feminist/Marxist approach.

In other words, you can apply pretty much any theoretical perspective that appeals to you. Why don't you give us an idea of where your theoretical interests lie, and perhaps we can help you figure out how to apply those to post-apocalyptic literature.
OP mesmerized 1 / 2  
Sep 9, 2009   #3
Thanks for your reply. I haven't been here for quite a while. Well, I have chosen three books for the analytic part of my paper and they are: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller (it's a class PA book, and a highly acclaimed one too), The Postman by David Brin (turned into a movie starring Kevin Costner) and The Road by Cormac McCarthy (won Pulizer Prize in 2007 if I'm not mistaken).

Anyway, I have almost completed the first chapter of my thesis and now I'd like to start chapter two, but here I've encountered some major obstacles. My thesis supervisor advised be to deal with the concept of 'sublime' and it's apocalyptic dimension. I've read some Longinus', Burke's and Kant's works on the subject of sublime and it doesn't help much, certainly it's not enough.

Here's the question that me and my supervisor have developed. The question embraces the whole work. "In what way the rhetoric of canonical works of post-apocalyptic fiction at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries reflects changes in poetic imagination in the context of apprehension of terminal end - against the background of pre-eminent philosophical and aesthetic ideas of the discussed period?"

To be honest it's a bit overwhelming... I don't think I'm capable of answering such a profound question (in such a short time that I've got left)

Any insights are more than welcome... Thanks!

PS. There're more things I'd like to discuss with you, and more questions to sub-chapters but I don't wanna sort of deluge you with them.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 9, 2009   #4
It will be less overwhelming if you break it down:

"canonical works of post-apocalyptic fiction at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries"

Find out (if you haven't all ready), what these are.

"the rhetoric of"

So next, you need to figure out how the works above mentioned use rhetoric, and to what purpose.

"pre-eminent philosophical and aesthetic ideas of the discussed period?"

And of course you need to figure what the philosophical and aesthetic ideas of the period were.

"changes in poetic imagination in the context of apprehension of terminal end"

And then look at what these are.

Then just sort of slam them all together, looking for any connections that you can see that would be interesting to talk about and relate back to whatever you chose as your overall thesis statement.
OP mesmerized 1 / 2  
Sep 12, 2009   #5
Thanks EF_Sean,

Well, to be perfectly honest, I've written 25 pages so far, my final deadline is in 6 days, I need around 15-25 pages more for the second chapter, which is the toughest part of my thesis. Then, chapter three will be around 15-25 as well, but since it's gonna be the analytic part I think I'll manage to deal with it. The problem is with the second chapter, I'm not sure how to connect the whole thing with sublime and rhetoric... of course Longinus' treatise is essential here, but I'm not that good at close reading and searching for some rhetorical structures...

Do you know where I could find out about the major philosophical and aesthetic ideas of the period of 1960-2006? I'm not sure how I'm supposed to refer all this to "poetic imagination" I was advised to read Gaston Bachelard's works, but some of them extremely hard to read and many times I found myself lost while reading them...

Best wishes!

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