Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





M. Keith Booker

Committee Member

Robin Roberts

Second Committee Member

Lisa Hinrichsen


Apocalypse, Postapocalypse, Post-apocalypse, Science Fiction


In the aftermath 11 September, 2001, postapocalyptic science fiction has offered a way to make sense of the events of that day, as well as the years of social, cultural and political upheaval that have followed. In many ways, 9/11 began immediately to take on apocalyptic significance in the American national narrative, seemingly marking the end of one period and the beginning of another, entirely different one. To think of 9/11 as a kind of apocalyptic break with the past, however, does not tell the whole story. Moreover, such thinking denies key historical linkages between the American response to 9/11 and to earlier moments of crisis or catastrophe, particularly during the latter half of the twentieth century. After 9/11, conversations about security quickly turned to discussions of the concepts of identity and community--discussions that recall the social, cultural and political pressures of the 1950s and the Cold War. Within this horizon, this study explores the ways in which postapocalyptic science fiction after 9/11 examines the limits and consequences of social, cultural and political definitions of identity and community in the dominant American narrative. Looking at the close symbolic relationship between masculine identity and the figure of the hero in postapocalyptic science fiction, I argue that postapocalyptic science fiction after 9/11 represents a cultural space dedicated to imagining new ways of thinking about identity and community, predominantly by deconstructing the traditional relationship between the twinned figures of man and monster. Indeed, such a focus is also evident in postapocalyptic science fiction from the 1950s onward, such that, when considered from a historical perspective, postapocalyptic science fiction after 9/11 participates in a rich tradition of using vampires, zombies and other monsters to explore the dangers of holding too tightly to a single definition of identity, as well as to promote the value of community.