Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus


Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Louise Economides

Commitee Members

Louise Economides, Katie Kane, Christopher Preston


science fiction, grief, anthropocentrism, comedy, horror, attunement


University of Montana

Subject Categories

American Literature | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America


This thesis examines the narrative portrayals of issues pertaining to anthropogenic extinction in two contemporary speculative fiction novels: Jeff VanderMeer’s Hummingbird Salamander (2021) and James Bradley’s Ghost Species (2020). This focus leads to consideration of narrative genre, tropes, and affective resonance. The first half of this thesis centers the genres of tragedy and elegy, their tropes of ghosts and hauntings, and the affective processes of grief and horror. Within these narrative frameworks extinction is experienced as a claustrophobic site of horror in Hummingbird Salamander, and as a time-warping inspiration of grief in Ghost Species. However, in each novel these genres of experience permeate one another, suggesting that grief and horror, tragedy and elegy are intertwined. The latter half of this thesis builds on this permeability to trace how tragedy and elegy can bleed into comedy, grief and horror can morph into hope, and ghosts and hauntings – reminders of loss – can be reconceived as kin and contaminants which affirm presence and connection. Ultimately, I suggest that VanderMeer and Bradley each accomplish the novel usage of kinship and contamination as comedic tropes through which to narrate localized, embodied experiences of the sixth extinction that trigger hope, in juxtaposition with the relatively well-worn usage of elegiac and tragic tropes of ghosts and hauntings to narrate the grief and horror with which anthropogenic extinction is generally met.



© Copyright 2022 Christopher Hardesty Nicholson