The Post-Apocalyptic Chronotope

Petter Skult

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


    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 somethingthat has not yet happened? How can something come after the end? The apocalypseand the apocalyptic are ubiquitous concepts, but they also span a vast breadth oftext, from literature to cinema, from the fantastic to the prosaic, from fact tofiction. In order to fruitfully define and discuss the post-apocalypse, one must firsthave a system in place that can do so. What I have done is to approach it usingM.M. Bakhtin’s idea of the chronotope, time-space. Bakhtin’s chronotope is adistinctly literary concept, borrowed—in his own words—from Einstein’s theory oftime-space. He defines a chronotope as the fusion of time and space, of spatial andtemporal indicators becoming one and feeding off one another—what affects time,affects space and vice versa, and what affects the chronotope, affects those wholive in it, creating a unique image of personhood in any given chronotope. Bystudying various prototypical representatives of post-apocalyptic writing, fromMary Shelley’s The Last Man to McCarthy’s The Road, I have created a functionalpost-apocalyptic chronotope, which can be used to define and discuss what exactlyconstitutes post-apocalyptic writing, and perhaps explain why we find it sofascinating. As a basis for the post-apocalyptic chronotope I have used two ofBakhtin’s own chronotopes, the chronotope of encounter and the novel of travel. InBakhtin’s literary image of the road, time and space fuse perfectly, as spatialmovement flows into temporal movement. In the post-apocalypse, this movementis enhanced even further, as every step taken is through a landscape that issimultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, seen always through the spatial lens of thepre-apocalypse.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Title of host publicationApocalypse: Imagining the End
    EditorsAlannah Ari Hernandez
    PublisherInter-disciplinary press
    ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84888-278-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeB2 Part of a book or another research book


    • Chronotope
    • post-apocalypse

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