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Why is there nothing on e-Notes about post-apocalyptic literature, and what is a...

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rswartz | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:29 PM via web

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Why is there nothing on e-Notes about post-apocalyptic literature, and what is a summary of the post-apocalyptic genre?

I am teaching a course on dystopian and post-apocalyptic narratives and thought I would check in here to see what e-Notes has. eNotes has a lot on dystopian writing but nothing on post-apocalyptic writing as a genre (though it does have some entries of individual post-apocalyptic works, but not even all of the standard representative ones).

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted December 28, 2012 at 5:24 PM (Answer #1)

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Post apocalyptic writing as a genre deals with human society after a catastrophic event, such as war or plague, which has drastically changed the scope of humanity. It is typically set in a world that is devoid of technology or has only a smattering of technology which either not desireable or not accessible to those living.  As with many genres, the dystopian and even the science fiction genres overlap with post-apocalyptic writing, so you may have to draw some information from those genres as well.

For example, Ayn Rand's Anthem fits both the dystopian genre and the post-apocalyptic genre and is well-represented on e-notes.  Stephen King's The Stand is another example.  It is set after a devastating plague but also contains elements of the supernatural as the character finds a way to travel through time zones and across large distances in a matter of seconds. By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet is another tale that is designated primarily as science fiction but unravels a tale of a young man exploring a city destroyed by a cataclysmic war.

The bottom line is that post-apocalyptic literature is a sub-genre with many characteristics that overlap into other genres.  I suppose one way of making a distinction is to focus on the ways the characters survive to rebuild society and a sense of self.  The dystopian novels will focus on how these attempts fail in various ways while the science fiction literature will employ obvious elements of "other-worldliness"; you will have to draw these distinctions for your students.

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