Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in English (MA)
Constance R. Bailey
Second Committee Member
Apocalypse, Ian Bogost, Speculative Fiction, The Night Land, Unit Operations, William Hope Hodgson
In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh catalogs contemporary fiction’s failure to adequately engage with catastrophic climate change. In this thesis, I argue the engagement problem has a century-old analogue in fiction’s approach to entropy. Entropy was among the first secular apocalyptic modes in mainstream discourse, and this investigation of authors’ approaches to its portrayal provides a model for understanding fiction’s denial or acceptance of apocalypse. I first examine William Hope Hodgson’s 1912 novel The Night Land, a far-future tale set in a post-solar Earth. I contend that Hodgson’s centering of the human experience prevents him from portraying a true end and instead lends his work anti-apocalyptic energy. This centering seemingly stems from the nineteenth century episteme, as defined by Foucault, which privileged taxonomy as the guiding epistemological model. I then contrast The Night Land with two mid-century stories that more-fully reconcile entropic apocalypse, and which favor a networked “unit operations” approach as described by the contemporary theorist Ian Bogost. First, “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov envisions a cosmic resetting by framing the universe as protagonist. Second, “Entropy” by Thomas Pynchon looses full-scale entropy on humans both witting and unwitting, framing human consciousness and ultimately inconsequential.
Riggs, Nathan, "Spirit Don't Ever Die: Apocalypse and Denial in an Infinite Universe" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 3347.