My proposal and teacher comments

Okay, so my proposal for my final paper needs a lot of work. My teacher e-mailed it back to me with some comments and asking me to re-frame the concept to be more about the aesthetic response. She’s right; I’m trying to hard to craft this paper around things I already know. But I am having a little trouble “re-framing” so I am tossing the whole damn thing up here in the hopes that not all of my lovely readers have run away.


Bold = Professor Comments

Katie Mitchell
8 April 2009
Paper Proposal
Self-preservation and Abandonment
First of all, I am interested in exploring a sub-genre of catastrophic art that we haven’t yet examined. My area of interest and expertise lies in literature and films dealing with epidemic (actual and metaphorical) and often post-apocalyptic literature. In general, I am interested in the representation of human reaction in epidemic/apocalypse, and specifically for this paper I would like to examine abandonment, parentless children, and other various extremes of achieving self-preservation in the face of epidemic. The main texts I will be examining for this paper are Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, the film 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later.
Defoe’s novel is a historical recount of the spread of plague in London in 1665. It deals with an actual catastrophic event, and describes in much detail an epidemic of an actual disease. The two films I would like to examine are tales of survival in a post-apocalyptic, post-pandemic world in which a fictional disease (Rage) has resulted in the destruction of most human life on the planet. In relation to these films (which?) and Defoe’s novel I am particularly interested in exploring the following questions:
1.    What lengths will people go to in order to survive in the midst of catastrophe?
Your focus is on the art work – remember that.  You may have sociological and historical questions but the primary concern here is how Defoe does so.  What is the structure of his piece?
a.    What various methods of self-preservation are there in epidemic?
i.    Abandonment – abandoning infected family members and friends. Priests abandoning congregations. Individuals abandoning destroyed cities.
ii.    Forming communities that work to avoid/quarantine infection. (Versus the powerlessness of individuals)
iii.    “People killing people” – murder as a means of survival. And also how infection kills humans in its own design of self-preservation.
2.    Do these methods of survival differ if the catastrophe is an epidemic or apocalyptic in nature (as opposed to genocide, slavery, war, and terrorism that have been the focus of our class – these are non apocalyptic?))?
3.    What does the focus of self over others say about humans in general? (too general a question)
Through more research, reading, and analysis of the films I believe I will uncover further points of exploration.
A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later
The Living and the Undead by Gregory A. Waller
Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative by Patricia Wald

You must distinguish epidemic from apocalyptic.  Not all art related to AIDS, plague etc are necessarily apocalyptic in tone, although they could be.  You might look at David Arnold, Colonizing the Body  — for a colonial perspective on the plague.

Katie, your questions here are about the plague/epidemics not about the aesthetic response.  You must re-frame your questions focused on the text.



  1. okay
    I read your older posts and I now have a better idea of what you want to focus on.

    As I told you, I think you should read Foucault for various reasons. Basically because everybody should read Foucault (hehe) and also because he writes about the idea of western ethics that are born with the Age of Reason and he suggests interpretations on catastrophy. As far as the destruction of the body goes you could look into Marquis DeSade -the idea of destroying one’s body for pleasure is all over -not 100% relevant though, but it’ll definitely give you a new perspective.
    Also you could look into the idea of destroying as ‘cutting into pieces’ which is pretty much incorporated in the Romantic tradition -the world perceived in abstracts instead of a whole, therefore a body broken to pieces becomes the subject of this tradition (look into Schiller, maybe Novalis, even Goethe -have to look closer for titles + authors).
    Now, as far as Camus’ ‘plague’ as a history of the Holocaust but -throwing the idea here- you could look at Barthes’ ‘The death of the Author’ essay, where he explains how reading is in fact re-writing. This will definitely change your perspective as a reader.

    What else did I wanna say?
    Right -I’ll get it together @ home and send you notes on ‘miasma’-tic issues and definitely book titles.

    I really like the idea -and mostly the abandonment staff -I really think you’ll find many interesting points in romanticism (wanderers -curses -the idea of the doomed soul- emptyness etc). I guess what the prof is trying to point out is that if you wanna discuss catastrophy maybe you should consider the vehicles (literature/films/etc) as distortion filters? maybe? I don’t know -that’s the path I’d take because I believe that media distorts reality by definition.

    Okay, that’s it for now -I’m crazy busy!!!

    • thanks elektra! it’s all helpful!

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