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Mikko Mäntyniemi: Poetics of the End: Time, Space and Vision in Contemporary Apocalyptic Narratives

Tampere University
LocationRemote connection
7.1.2022 12.00–16.00
LanguageEnglish
Entrance feeFree of charge
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The dissertation of M.A. Mikko Mäntyniemi investigates the folded temporalities and spaces in contemporary apocalyptic narratives. Using the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze as its theoretical foundation, the dissertation examines the different narrative strategies in contemporary apocalyptic literary narratives. Analysing the temporal and spatial constructions as well as represented visions of the diegetic world, the study shows that there is no singular apocalyptic moment in narratives about the end of the world, rather, we should approach the apocalypse as a process that has already happened and is still yet to come.

Apocalyptic narratives and the apocalyptic narrative logic seem to be ubiquitous in the present moment. Whether we are talking about popular culture artefacts, movies, novels, TV series, comic books or video games, or news about the covid-19 pandemic, economic downturn, or climate change, one can easily see the use of apocalyptic rhetoric in contemporary culture. The apocalypse is associated with the coming end; the prophecy of the end that irreparably changes the world. It also claims that we can know the past because the future events shed light on previous events and make it possible to see the progress of history.

Even secular apocalyptic narratives, often associated with the genre of speculative fiction, are often seen as narratives where time marches onto its inevitable end. In these cases, the end of the world is reached at the end of the novel and as these two ends coincide, they reveal something to the reader, something essential. Another literary tradition – the post-apocalypse – represents us with a different view of the end: mainly that the end of the world cannot illuminate anything, that there is no meaning to be found at the end. Because of the mistrust towards the power of an ending, the post-apocalyptic literary tradition is often connected to the postmodernist cultural movement.

To examine in detail the different narrative- techniques used to represent the end of the world in contemporary apocalyptic narratives, the dissertation forms the research questions of what exactly ends in different apocalyptic narratives, and how is the end represented? To answer these questions the dissertation uses three primary novels: James Van Pelt’s The Summer of the Apocalypse (2006), Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus (2014), and Emily St. John-Mandel’s Station Eleven (2015). The dissertation is divided into three parts and each of the three novels serves as the main corpus of one of the sections: time (Summer of the Apocalypse), space (Gold Fame Citrus), and vision (Station Eleven). In addition to the three primary works, several secondary sources are used to examine the tradition of apocalyptic literature.

The first part of the dissertation focuses on the different temporal relations in apocalyptic narratives, and how these narratives use complex and repetitive temporal structures to depict the end of the world. While the apocalypse is a disaster in the future waiting for fulfilment, at the same time it is also an event that has already happened in the diegetic world. Therefore, apocalypse should not be approached as a specific moment or an event but a process, or a field of intensities.

The second part of the dissertation in turn focuses on apocalyptic space, what are its characteristics, and how it is represented in contemporary narratives. Special focus is placed on the perceived emptiness of an apocalyptic space and how it is both the social behavior in the diegetic world that is affected by the apocalyptic disaster as well as the ontology of the world itself.

The third and final part examines the different aspects of vision in the end of the world in apocalyptic narratives; how certain characters can see more than others, and thus by extension, the narration provides the reader a possibility to see more. The part also analyses the theme of archiving and preserving the past that is prevalent in many contemporary apocalyptic narratives.

The study proposes that instead of division two apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres, the end of the world narratives should be considered as apocalyptic narratives. The post-apocalyptic genre implies that there could be an apocalyptic narrative without the apocalypse, which over-simplifies the temporal and spatial constructions in these narratives. By approaching apocalyptic narratives through Deleuzian pure event and various literary theories, this study suggests that the temporal strategies employed in literary apocalyptic narratives are more complex than the traditional notion of the apocalypse would suggest. The folding and looping temporalities also affect the spatial representations and visions of the world depicted in narratives, and these narrative strategies should be examined in more detail. Especially since the apocalyptic narrative logic is so prevalent in the 21st century.

The doctoral dissertation of M.A. Mikko Mäntyniemi in the field of literary research titled Poetics of the End: Time, Space and Vision in Contemporary Apocalyptic Narratives will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Tampere University at 12 o'clock on Friday 7 January 2022. Professor Mark Currie from Queen Mary University of London will be the opponent while professor Sari Kivistö will act as the custos.

The event can be followed via remote connection

The dissertation is available online at
https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-2232-8