Thursday, March 13, 2008

Apocalypses Then, Again

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post. One way of thinking about the multiple apocalypses in the science fiction we've been reading so far this semester is to consider the dominant literary mode in which the authors choose to write, what consequences it has on their representation of pre- and post-apocalyptic life, and what connections it might have to the historical era in which they were writing. So what do you make of the following list:

Earth Abides: American primitivism
Fahrenheit 451: American pastoralism
Neuromancer: the American sublime
China Mountain Zhang: American beauty (or is it urbanism?)
Parable of the Sower: American realism

Do you agree I've got the dominant literary mode of each work pegged? Or is it reductive to try to isolate one mode for each--after all, each has multiple strands and participates in multiple traditions--so maybe it would make more sense to try to analyze the relations between the various literary modes in each work before trying to compare and contrast across works and time periods. But then the complexity of the task starts to risk being paralyzing rather than invigorating. We have to start somewhere. Why not keep it simple at first?


Beeblebrox said...

pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean by American Pastorlism?
and Neuromancer and China Mountain Zhang take place so much in foriegn countries, could we even consider tham totally american? I know the point of the books are what happens to America, but there is almost equally as much about China and Japan..Just feeling argumentative..sorry

The Constructivist said...

Take a look at Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden, which is an early and still great analysis of American pastoralism, when you get a chance. The short version is that it has similar strengths and weaknesses as Greek and British pastoralism (say, as analyzed by Raymond Williams in The Country and the City) before it--yeah, it's a return to nature, but it's entirely a self-conscious one by urban sophisticates; yeah, it celebrates agriculture and ranching and getting back to the land, but what it most often celebrates is those doing to the returning. Marx and Williams look at the ways class gets played out in pastoral works and Marx especially focuses on American responses to new technologies (for the 19th C and early 20th C, that is). For more, check out Williams's Keywords and the new Keywords for American Cultural Studies, which if I remember/assume right will have it!

On Gibson and McHugh, yes, a lot of the action takes place outside America, but they are American authors writing in recognizably American modes/styles....