The Post-Apocalyptic Chronotope

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Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Petter Skult
Editors: Alannah Ari Hernandez
Publication year: 2013
Publisher: Inter-disciplinary press
Book title: Apocalypse: Imagining the End
Start page: 65
End page: 73
eISBN: 978-1-84888-278-2


How does one discuss something as nebulous a concept as the post-apocalypse?
The term itself often causes confusion—how is it possible to write of something
that has not yet happened? How can something come after the end? The apocalypse
and the apocalyptic are ubiquitous concepts, but they also span a vast breadth of
text, from literature to cinema, from the fantastic to the prosaic, from fact to
fiction. In order to fruitfully define and discuss the post-apocalypse, one must first
have a system in place that can do so. What I have done is to approach it using
M.M. Bakhtin’s idea of the chronotope, time-space. Bakhtin’s chronotope is a
distinctly literary concept, borrowed—in his own words—from Einstein’s theory of
time-space. He defines a chronotope as the fusion of time and space, of spatial and
temporal indicators becoming one and feeding off one another—what affects time,
affects space and vice versa, and what affects the chronotope, affects those who
live in it, creating a unique image of personhood in any given chronotope. By
studying various prototypical representatives of post-apocalyptic writing, from
Mary Shelley’s The Last Man to McCarthy’s The Road, I have created a functional
post-apocalyptic chronotope, which can be used to define and discuss what exactly
constitutes post-apocalyptic writing, and perhaps explain why we find it so
fascinating. As a basis for the post-apocalyptic chronotope I have used two of
Bakhtin’s own chronotopes, the chronotope of encounter and the novel of travel. In
Bakhtin’s literary image of the road, time and space fuse perfectly, as spatial
movement flows into temporal movement. In the post-apocalypse, this movement
is enhanced even further, as every step taken is through a landscape that is
simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, seen always through the spatial lens of the


Chronotope, post-apocalypse

Last updated on 2020-23-09 at 06:32