Beyond Richard Kearney’s ‘Frontier Zone’: Describing Enmity and Otherness in the American Post-Apocalyptic

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2020)
Title: Beyond Richard Kearney’s ‘Frontier Zone’: Describing Enmity and Otherness in the American Post-Apocalyptic
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Authors:
Andrei-Cristian Neguț, West University of Timișoara, Romania

Abstract:

American post-apocalyptic fiction appears to weave intricate plays between the portrayal of Self, Otherness and enmity. These plays seem to be set in motion by various differences between defined characters (mostly protagonists) and ‘strangers’. Novels such as Harry H. Frank’s Alas, Babylon, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, contain representations of ‘strangers’, which, in the debuilt sociality of the post-apocalyptic, signify potential danger. This portrayal of danger seems to transcend perceptions of race or class, instead relying on the unknown – the ‘stranger’. I plan to analyze this representation of Otherness and explore it based on Richard Kearney’s Strangers, Gods and Monsters – Interpreting Otherness, where he argues that these “figures of Otherness occupy the frontier zone where reason falters and fantasies flourish”. In my presentation, I will attempt to adapt Kearney’s theory of the ‘stranger’ to the post-apocalyptic setting of the aforementioned novels, while highlighting parallels between the “frontier zones”, as Kearney describes them, and McCarthy’s linear, diffuse topography, Pat Frank’s (re-)enclavization, and Miller’s atemporal abbey. By adapting these post-apocalyptic narratives to Kearney’s framework, I aim to describe a new form of Otherness, in which ‘strangers’ become ‘Gods and Monsters’ that threaten to push the boundaries beyond the Kearney’s ‘frontier zone’, and into a space of irrational enmity.