David Kuhn, “Gender Roles After the Collapse: Women in American Post-Apocalyptic Fiction”
(Spoke last year on Law and Order in Post-Apocalyptic Novels.)
Have read 50-60 of these novels in the last few years.
American novels published within last 100 years.
Women have four different presentations.
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
women become leaders and warriors, guide others to a new future
Women’s characters match authors’ desires.
equal- after collapse, still problems
shamans- magic and mystery may replace science
warriors/leaders- feminist issues
In London’s Scarlet Plague, 2012 half dozen or so survivors become tribes. Chauffeur: turns wife of former employer into sex slave. “You had your day before the plague, but this is my day.”
“We who mastered the planet, who were as very gods, now live in …
A Boy and His Dog (novella and movie)
Novella is by Harlan Ellison.
the dog taught boy to read and do math
dog finds women for the boy
WWIV has killed off most of the women and the few surviving women are living underground. Savage parody of American culture.
guy, woman, and dog flee to the upper world– to save the dog, the guy kills and cooks his lover.
Movie is worse than the book.
In McCarthy’s The Road
few women in the novel
eliminates any women characters because it is about a father and son
Women do play essential roles in some works.
George R. Stewart’s The Earth Abides.
protagonist is an academic
Many years after plague, tribe.
Bring back guy who has STDs and is a misogynist.
Age, not gender.
One Second After, William R. Forstchen
Black Mountain, NC
town’s mayor, Kate, retains system of order
co-eds from the local religious college take up arms and fight
Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler
Mortimer Tate is the narrator.
Sheila not only leads the crew of muscle men, but organizes and leads the attack on Atlanta.
Annie and the other strippers are able to fight against the other groups.
Logic, science, cheap energy (before collapse)
Magic, mystery, romance (after collapse)
Stephen King The Stand
epic account of good versus evil
The Witch of Hebron (sequel to World Made by Hand)
woman is a herbalist
Ardath Mayhar’s The World Ends at Hickory Hollow women lead
told from woman’s POV
Lucinda assembles survivors. Rescues the neglected children and places them in safe homes.
Woman-led gang of prostitutes is the bad guys.
Into the Forest
most artful, best literary work
They burn down their house after one is raped and made pregnant.
The baby was a boy. “What’s wrong with a boy?… All that work for a boy.”
The sisters and the new babies create their own Herland.
genre-busting novel Midnight
craziest of these, not well written
romance and post-apocalyptic literature and a hint of Twilight
Mourning was important, rituals, language.
Women were the last to quit mourning.
Poe thought grief of a woman was most poignant.
He like other Americans would be familiar with mourners books.
1836 Mourning Rituals and Dress
American not the only culture embracing mourning. Also Western Europe.
Proper display of mourning included dark clothing, decorating residences. Crepe on the door knockers. Blinds closed during funeral processions.
Middle class families driven to bankruptcy by all the mourning requirements.
Those who felt left out by the experience could consult mourning books.
Some public displays of mourning were acceptable. There were constraints.
Dark, somber clothing.
Women were expected to wear black streamers on their bonnets. That meant that if they weren’t crying, they still looked like they were.
Men, in evening wear, would be great at a party or at a funeral.
Heavy dark purple bordering on black– mourning for royalty (common color for funeral home)
spatial placement of the bust was reminiscent of Victorian graveyard sculptures
The more elaborate the marker, the more truly grief stricken the family appeared to others.
The space has become the grave. “grave-like chamber space”
Readers participate in Poe’s lost performance, placing them in physical contact with the dead
By the end, the speaker seems to be losing his senses.
Melodramatic grief could fall outside an acceptable range of mourning behaviors, especially for males, whose mourning was more reserved.
Victorian practices connected with Egyptian and Greek mourning. Lots of relation to the myths of Greek stories. (Woman marries while pregnant with god’s child and he kills them and turns the bird black.)
Persons of women bore symbols of wealth and servitude. Also wore mourning. Feminizes emotion of mourning.
Mother or wife would be at the head of the body in Greek experience.
Physical bodies are separated in the poem.
Speaker’s emotional estate devalues the masculine and values the feminine.
Though society in general devalued women, in mourning, Poe’s speaker’s status is lowered, by being emotional, and then raised, because feminine authority is found in mourning.
Last stanza–feminine authority, speaker wrapped in never-ending sorrow “Grieving shall be lifted never more!”
in American culture, gossip is usually seen as a feminine conversation
By looking at literature, Patricia Myers Spats “in literature, a way to take gossip seriously”
Wharton’s book (1905)
Cather’s book (1923)
Combine the two definitions: How do women use language to tattle on each other?
Exploration of women’s gossip in both novels, effects are lessened for married women, worse effects for single women.
Gossip is a powerful tool.
Can also tear women apart.
Deboarah Jones “language of women’s strengths… sometimes X and attacked”
despite criticism, gossip plays some role in some women’s conversations
Most obvious in literature written by women and about women.
Framework for function of gossip:
form of small talk that relates to women
build on the term, one element of gossip that brings all women into it: “scandal”
Scandal can further malicious intent and form a bond between the women gossiping.
Gossip is a judgement of the morality of others. Behavior is regulated by the gossip. Connects women who are otherwise isolated.
Ambiguous nature of scandal gossip indicates how complex women’s conversations can be come.
Can it be that Poe is attempting to de-fix the mourning as feminine?
One of the articles I skimmed through said that Poe’s poem was a masculine inversion of Browning’s The Courtship of Lady Geraldine.
Elaborate culture of mourning… The cultural mourning was also artistic. A whole material apparatus, the hair weaving, the quilts, so an intricate weaving between text and artistic mourning.