Extrapolation

Shakespeare, Survival, and the Seeds of Civilization in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven

Extrapolation (2016), 57, (3), 289–303.

Abstract

This paper will explore the role of Shakespeare in Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven. The following analysis will demonstrate that the text takes up and recontextualizes Shakespeare’s depiction of religious, civil, and biological apocalypse, indicating a thematic continuation of Elizabethan apocalyptic works into the post-apocalyptic genre. Where Shakespeare’s works imagine an apocalypse as a return to an earlier, more violent time, St. John Mandel depicts a world which has been returned to primitivism but is now recovering modernity. She also grapples with Shakespeare’s recurring preoccupation with ephemerality in text and performance, and the possibility of survival through written and physical records. Station Eleven presents Shakespeare as containing the seed of civilization, an idea which is imbricated within the ideology of empire and restoration of British imperial power. The mobilization of Shakespeare is facilitated by simultaneous forward and backward momentum, a trope which is embodied both thematically and structurally within the text and embodies aspects of both American and British post-apocalyptic fiction.

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Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books 1999. Print. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Google Scholar

Clark, Walter van Tilburg. “The Portable Phonograph.” Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow. Ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Bantam Books, 1952. 41–45. Print. The Portable Phonograph Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow 41 45 Google Scholar

Firth, Katherine. The Apocalypse Tradition in Reformation Britain, 1530–1645. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1979. Print. The Apocalypse Tradition in Reformation Britain, 1530–1645 Google Scholar

Forgeng, Jeffrey L. Daily Life in Elizabethan England. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2010. Print. Daily Life in Elizabethan England Google Scholar

Halpern, Richard. “Shakespeare in the Tropics: From High Modernism to New Historicism.” Representations 45 (1994): 1–25. Print. Shakespeare in the Tropics: From High Modernism to New Historicism Representations 45 1 25 Google Scholar

Hunt, Maurice. “‘Forward Backward’ Time and Apocalypse in Hamlet.” Comparative Drama 38.4 (2004–2005): 379–399. Print. ‘Forward Backward’ Time and Apocalypse in Hamlet Hamlet 38.4 379 399 Google Scholar

Kunin, Aaron. “Shakespeare’s Preservation Fantasy.” PMLA 124.1 (2009): 92–106. Print. Shakespeare’s Preservation Fantasy PMLA 124.1 92 106 Google Scholar

Lee, Sidney. “Poet’s World Dominion.” The Straits Times. 22 March 1916. 12. Print. Poet’s World Dominion The Straits Times 12 Google Scholar

Lewis, Wyndham. The Lion and the Fox: The Role of the Hero in the Plays of Shakespeare. New York and London: Harper, 1927. Print. The Lion and the Fox: The Role of the Hero in the Plays of Shakespeare Google Scholar

Luckhurst, Roger. Science Fiction. Malden: Polity, 2005. Print. Science Fiction Google Scholar

McCarrey, Sarah. “‘I Want It All’—An Interview with Emily Scott Mandel.” Tor.com. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. ‘I Want It All’—An Interview with Emily Scott Mandel Tor.com Google Scholar

McInnis, David, and Matthew Steggle. “Introduction.” Lost Plays in Shakespeare’s England. Ed. David McInnis and Matthew Steggle. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 1–16. Print. Introduction Lost Plays in Shakespeare’s England 1 16 Google Scholar

Milton, John. “An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare.” Mr. William Shakespeare Comedies, histories and tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies. The second impression. William Shakespeare. Internet Shakespeare Editions. Web. An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare Mr. William Shakespeare Comedies, histories and tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies. The second impression Google Scholar

Miney, R. J. “Shakespeare in India.” Empire Review 292 (May 1925): 534–535. Print. Shakespeare in India Empire Review 534 535 Google Scholar

Ozawa, Hiroshi. “‘I Must Be Cruel Only to Be Kind’: Apocalyptic Repercussions in Hamlet.” Hamlet and Japan. Ed. Yoshiko Ueno. New York: AMS Press, 1995. 87–101. Print. ‘I Must Be Cruel Only to Be Kind’: Apocalyptic Repercussions in Hamlet Hamlet and Japan 87 101 Google Scholar

Pittenger, Elizabeth. “Aliens in the Corpus: Shakespeare’s Books in the Age of the Cyborg.” Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies. Ed. Gabriel Brahm Jr. and Mark Driscoll. Boulder: Westview, 1995. 204–218. Aliens in the Corpus: Shakespeare’s Books in the Age of the Cyborg Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies 204 218 Google Scholar

Rogin, Michael. Independence Day. London: BFI Modern Classics: 1998. Print. Independence Day Google Scholar

Shakespeare, William. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works Second Edition. Ed. John Jowett, William Montgomery, Gary Taylor, and Stanley Wells. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works Second Edition Google Scholar

Snow, C. P. The New Men. Looe: House of Stratus, 2000. Print. The New Men Google Scholar

St. John Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven. London, Basingstoke, and Oxford: Picador, 2014. Print. Station Eleven Google Scholar

Wittreich, Joseph. “‘Image of that Horror’ Apocalypse in King Lear.” The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thoughts and Leisure. Ed. C. A. Patrides and Joseph Anthony Wittreich. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1984. 175–206. Print. ‘Image of that Horror’ Apocalypse in King Lear The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thoughts and Leisure 175 206 Google Scholar

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Smith, Philip

Smith, Philip