Title page for ETD etd-03252009-163342

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Brown Jr., Joseph Franklin
Author's Email Address jbrow85@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-03252009-163342
Title Children of Men: The American Jeremiad in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Science Fiction and Film
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Carl Freedman Committee Chair
John W. Lowe Committee Member
Brannon Costello Committee Member
Lauren Coats Committee Member
Victor Stater Dean's Representative
  • Environmental Disaster
  • Apocalyptic
  • Dystopian
  • Science Fiction
  • American Jeremiad
  • Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Robert A. Heinlein
  • Countersubversion
  • Red Dawn
  • Frontier Narrative
Date of Defense 2009-03-23
Availability unrestricted
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.

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