An Emerging New American Mythos: Post-Apocalyptic Narratives as Expressions of Rupture, Rage, Resignation, and Regret

Celeste Lacroix, Robert Westerfelhaus


In our media-saturated society popular culture assumes a quasi-religious function, offering mythic narratives and associated mediated rituals that provide audiences with equipment for living. The United States has developed its own distinctive mythos, termed the American monomyth, which celebrates the restoration and perpetuation of social order through heroic means. This optimistic mythic narrative formula shapes storylines within a wide range of genres, such as film noir, sci-fi, and Westerns. In this study, the authors note the surging popularity of a distinctively different mythic formula: post-apocalyptic narratives. It is argued that these darkly pessimistic narratives give ritual expression to the rage, regret, and resignation prompted by a perceived or real irreparable rupture of the social order. The authors offer illustrative examples of post-apocalyptic storylines in books, films, televisions, and other media; identify some of the contemporary socio-cultural concerns addressed by these stories;  and suggest that post-apocalyptic narratives pose a potential challenge to the perennial dominance of the traditional American monomyth by joining – although not displacing or replacing – it as a fixture American popular culture.


American monomyth; media rituals; popular culture; post-apocalyptic narratives; rhetoric

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Data publikacji: 2022-12-28 15:00:01
Data złożenia artykułu: 2022-09-28 05:46:24


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