Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Peter Y. Paik

Committee Members

Tasha Oren, Peter Sands, Jason Puskar, Theodore Martin


Apocalypse, Catastrophe, Neoliberalism, Post-apocalypse, Realism, Zombie


Few periods have witnessed so strong a cultural fixation on apocalyptic calamity as the present. From fictions and comic books to Hollywood films, television shows, and video games, the end of the world is ubiquitous in the form of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives. Imagining world-changing catastrophes, contemporary apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives force us to face urgent socio-political questions such as danger of globalization, effect of neoliberal capitalist hegemony, ecological disasters, fragility of human civilization, and so on. J. G. Ballard's final fictions, though they do not directly deal with apocalyptic events but evoke apocalyptic mood, portray the bleak landscape of post-political, post-historical, late capitalist society, where extreme boredom generates mindless violence. Unlike Ballard, Margaret Atwood's satirical MaddAddam trilogy not only envisions the real possibility of apocalypse under the current neoliberal tendency but also presents a utopian desire in the form of a religious group that actively resists the hegemony of neoliberalism. James Howard Kunstler's post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on a post-petroleum age, where people lead simple and quotidian lives due to the scarcity of oil. By bringing the sense of scarcity to the fore, Kunstler's novel also formulates one version of realist worldview, in which the scarcity of resources inevitably calls for the strict rule of law. As an ultimate social allegory of anxiety and fear in our times, the global zombie apocalypse envisages the total destruction of civilization, examining the rising necessity of realist attitude that fundamentally negates the traditional belief of progress. Although the scope of contemporary apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives is wide and varied, they share one thing in common: the bold desire to imagine a totally different world by questioning the current order of things.