Ellie Fielding-RedpathAssociate Lecturer
The Cult Counternarrative: Power, Oppression, and Resistance in Contemporary American Post-/Apocalypses
Examined by Professor Michael Greaney (Professor in English Literature, Lancaster University) and Professor Susan Watkins (Professor of Women's Writing in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University)
Recognising the rise of fictional cult groups within contemporary post-/apocalyptic fictions, and considering both anticult discourses and academic scholarship that locate the “cult” as a threat to societal stability, this thesis locates the cult as a trope employed by future-thinking authors to create counternarratives to oppression – breaking down structures of hegemonic power through end-world events, and creating cult groups to facilitate societal critique through their positioning as microtopias (Edwards, 2009). This thesis explores North American hegemonic discourses, considering three key social identities: masculinity, race, and womanhood. It addresses the historical, religious, and political contexts that produce(d) the systemic regimes of oppression implemented by those in power upon marginalised peoples across the western world, and tackles issues of marginality, silencing, and abjection.
Taking a cultural materialist approach, it engages with twentieth- and twenty-first century North American fictions; encompassing novels (Parable of the Sower (1993); Parable of the Talents (1998); The Leftovers (2012); The Power (2016); Gather the Daughters (2017); The Testaments (2018)), television series (The Leftovers (2014-2017)), films (Far Cry 5: Inside Eden’s Gate (2018)), and video games (Far Cry 5 (2018); Days Gone (2019); The Last of Us Part II (2020)), alongside social media, political, and religious engagement. Analysing the works of Gramsci (1999), Klein (2008), Harvey and Moten (2013), Tyler (2013), Solnit (2016, 2017), and DiTommaso (2020), this thesis emphasises how hegemonic bodies of power develop and maintain structures of oppression, marginalisation, and delegitimization, identifying marginal communities as potential sources of counter-hegemonic resistance and exemplifying the ways the hegemon endeavour to silence their resistive action.
Ultimately, this thesis provides a framework for understanding the post-/apocalyptic genre as a space of totalising rupture; the perfect environment to challenge hegemonic structures within contemporary society, and develop future-thinking, counter-hegemonic spaces of resistance – revealing the prisons of hegemonic culture, and the methods by which such chains can be broken.
'Infected with Terrible Purpose': Alien Messianism from 1950s Science Fiction to Contemporary Adaptation
My MA dissertation explored the critical observation that premillennial epistemologically-focused texts were adapted to be more ontologically-focused. Using messianic figures, I showed how the American science fiction genre exists as a hybrid space wherein epistemological and ontological debates can coexist.
My research interests include:
speculative and future fictions; contemporary literature; American popular culture; political rhetoric; Western religions; science-fiction; adaptations; video game theory; literature and theology; fiction as resistance; digital and new media; social media; hegemony and counter-hegemony; counternarratives
Dr Andrew Tate, Reader in Literature, Religion and Aesthetics
Dr Brian Baker, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing