Carry the Fire: Intersections of Apocalypse, Primitivism, and Masculinity in American Literature, 1945-2000
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Michael Wilson, Milton Bates, Joe Austin, Peter Sands
Apocalypse, Masculinity, Primitivism
This dissertation examines American apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic texts from 1945-2000 in order to consider the varying ways that masculinity has been constructed in relation to the imagined primitive. The first chapter provides an overview of studies in apocalypse, primitivism, and masculinity to lay the foundation for the in-depth, critical analyses that follow. The second chapter provides an operational definition of American post-apocalyptic fiction as well as a survey of American post-apocalyptic fiction that includes George Stewart's Earth Abides, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon, Robert Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer, and David Brin's The Postman. The remaining chapters focus on analyses of apocalyptic texts, texts that gesture toward apocalypse without explicitly depicting a catastrophic event. The third chapter, therefore, examines Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, a non-fiction work of nature writing centered on the American Southwest in which Abbey constructs the image of the ecocentric male whose commitment to deep ecological thinking and a rugged, self-sufficient masculinity become reinforced through direct encounters with the primitive. The fourth chapter considers how William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Neuromancer reimagines the intersections of masculinity, primitivism, and apocalypse in the heterotopic sites of cyberspace and through the formulation of the virtual male. The fifth and final chapter analyzes Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, which employs conventions of the post-apocalyptic genre to highlight the limitations of apocalyptic fantasy and the effects it has upon contemporary men who think encounters with the primitive could allow for more "authentic" approaches to masculinity. Overall, this project highlights several key tensions between white men and men of color, between moral and savage men, and between sheer physical force and strength of mind. The intersections of apocalypse and primitivism, therefore, constitute the figurative territory in which competing constructions of American manhood have been debated in the late twentieth-century.
Barth, Dylan, "Carry the Fire: Intersections of Apocalypse, Primitivism, and Masculinity in American Literature, 1945-2000" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 661.