Hopeless decade: post-apocalypse literature in the wake of 911

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: James M. Boehnlein


An examination of four specific post-apocalyptic works, produced following the attack on the World Trade Center, illustrates an increase in pessimism in three specific types of social situations: biological, religious, and heritage. Examining each novel's word choice, connotation, and tonal establishment indicates how this harsh realism manifests itself as hopelessness. Examinations like this reveal new insight into this specific time frame. The works that I have examined and identified as examples of this stark decrease in optimism include The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; Wool book 1 by Hugh Howey; and Immobility by Brian Evenson, all of which are compared with the early classically optimistic work Earth Abides by George Stewart from 1949. By utilizing both media archeological techniques and historical approaches it becomes clear that the events of 9/11 altered the American mindset for just over a decade, resulting in a marked decline in hope. Focusing on the shift in writing in the post-apocalypse genre reveals an understanding of the American reaction to this historical event.


Atwood, Margaret, 1939- Criticism and interpretation, Atwood, Margaret, 1939- Oryx and Crake, McCarthy, Cormac, 1933- Criticism and interpretation, McCarthy, Cormac, 1933- Road, Evenson, Brian, 1966- Criticism and interpretation, Evenson, Brian, 1966- Immobility, Howey, Hugh Criticism and interpretation, Howey, Hugh. Wool, Stewart, George R, 1895-1980 Criticism and interpretation, Stewart, George R, 1895-1980. Earth abides, September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 Influence, Pessimism in literature, American literature History and criticism 21st century, American Literature, Literature, American Studies, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Post-apocalypse, historicism, media archeology, hope

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2015, author