Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

David Moore

Commitee Members

Robert Baker, Louise Economides, H. Rafael Chacón


apocalypticism, climate change, contemporary American fiction, ecocriticism, frontier, post-apocalyptic fiction


University of Montana

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture


Peter Heller’s recent best-seller, The Dog Stars, shows how current mainstream post-apocalyptic fiction links to the frontier myth, to environmental discourse, and to current American apocalypticism (exemplified in the “prepper movement”). This fiction repurposes frontier mythology in a dead end that promises an imagined escape into Edenic pastoral wilderness—but incapacitates people in the audience wrapped up in the mythology. Fantasy problematically steps in to replace concern in the face of climate change and other global environmental crises of incomprehensible scale. Equally, The Dog Stars illustrates the way the contemporary post-apocalyptic frontier hyperbolizes the historic myth’s erasure of Indigenous people in a cataclysmic fantasy of a second American genesis.

The frontier hero rides again, carrying a little emotional baggage, a little grief-ridden, but still a paragon of rugged individualism, propelled by what Richard Slotkin refers to as “regeneration through violence” into an imagined future that ironically simultaneously returns to an imaginary past. Meanwhile, the real prepper movement garners a lot of press. Members of a political and social fringe supposedly live very far away from the mainstream American dinner table, yet prepper types crop up like heroic mushrooms in apocalyptic fiction. Mainstream artists and audiences come together in fictions that fortify a double denial that erases the history of American violence against human and more-than-human in acquisition and manifest domination.

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