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    The First Last Man: Mary Shelley and the Postapocalyptic Imagination

    £26.99
    £29.99
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    ISBN: 9780812254020
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    Attribute nameAttribute value
    AuthorHunt, Eileen M.
    Pub Date16/04/2024
    BindingHardback
    Pages224
    Publisher: UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
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    Beyond her most famous creation-the nightmarish vision of Frankenstein's Creature-Mary Shelley's most enduring influence on politics, literature, and art perhaps stems from the legacy of her lesser-known novel about the near-extinction of the human species through war, disease, and corruption. This novel, The Last Man (1826), gives us the iconic image of a heroic survivor who narrates the history of an apocalyptic disaster in order to save humanity-if not as a species, then at least as the practice of compassion or humaneness. In visual and musical arts from 1826 to the present, this postapocalyptic figure has transmogrified from the "last man" into the globally familiar filmic images of the "invisible man" and the "final girl."

    Reading Shelley's work against the background of epidemic literature and political thought from ancient Greece to Covid-19, Eileen M. Hunt reveals how Shelley's postapocalyptic imagination has shaped science fiction and dystopian writing from H. G. Wells, M. P. Shiel, and George Orwell to Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Emily St. John Mandel. Through archival research into Shelley's personal journals and other writings, Hunt unearths Shelley's ruminations on her own personal experiences of loss, including the death of young children in her family to disease and the drowning of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley's grief drove her to intensive study of Greek tragedy, through which she developed the thinking about plague, conflict, and collective responsibility that later emerges in her fiction. From her readings of classic works of plague literature to her own translation of Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, and from her authorship of the first major modern pandemic novel to her continued influence on contemporary popular culture, Shelley gave rise to a tradition of postapocalyptic thought that asks a question that the Covid-19 pandemic has made newly urgent for many: What do humans do after disaster?