Identifier

etd-03252009-163342

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation considers the dynamic and resilient influence of the jeremiad, an early American religious and literary mode, on contemporary American literature and culture. It argues that the polemical, dystopian, and apocalyptic narratives so abundant in twentieth-century literature and film participate in an ingrained literary tradition that accounts for society's misfortunes as penalty for its social and moral evils while, at the same time, emphasizing an American exceptionalism born out of a belief in the society's election through its covenant with God. The project makes connections between early-American texts and related works of twentieth and twenty-first century American literature and science fiction in order to engage issues of American nationalism and to interrogate how these texts construct and reinforce an American identity. It investigates how groups during different historical periods adapted the jeremiad either to advocate or to critique political and cultural movements. Chapter one discusses this history of the jeremiad, situates the project within previous scholarship on the form, and argues for the continued relevance of the jeremiad in twentieth and twenty-first century fiction. Chapter two considers the role of the jeremiad in the work of Robert A. Heinlein during the cultural Cold War. Chapter three concerns the indebtedness of environmental science fiction and film to the American jeremiad tradition and, more specifically, how their dual imperatives of polemical and exceptionalism rhetoric continue to shape the ways that Americans conceive of environmental problems and policy. Finally, chapter four interrogates the role of the jeremiad in science fiction films since 1980 that function as countersubversive texts and, subsequently, in films that serve as critical responses to earlier attempts at foreclosing dissent.

Date

2009

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Carl Freedman

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