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Ellie Fielding-Redpath

Research student

Ellie Fielding-Redpath

Lancaster University

County College



Web: https://www.instagram.com/cult_lit/

Thesis Outline

Apocalyptic Otherness: The Trope of the Cult in Contemporary North American Post-/Apocalyptic Fictions


Cult. The pejorative weight of the term, and academic scholarship seemingly conforming to anticult discourses, encourages readers of all backgrounds to consider the “cult as threat” motif when such groups appear in fiction. In fact, the works of Beckford (1985), Robbins and Anthony (1982), Barker (2010), and countless others inform the negative representations of cultic movements across literary narratives. With particular attention paid toward post-/apocalyptic fictions, this thesis explores the employment of the cult across a vast array of mediums: novels (The Handmaid’s Tale (1985); Parable of the Sower (1993); Parable of the Talents (1998); The Leftovers (2012); Gather the Daughters (2017); Vox (2018)), series (The Leftovers (2014-2017); The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)), films (Far Cry 5: Inside Eden’s Gate (2018)), videogames (Far Cry 5 (2018); Far Cry: New Dawn (2019); Days Gone (2019); The Last of Us Part II (2020)), and memoirs (Brave (2018)). It locates the representation of cultic groups as opportunities to engage with discussions of otherness. Where the post-/apocalyptic exists in fiction, the reality of such narratives are fundamentally altered: the apocalypse announces the end and is defined by catastrophe, whilst, by its very nature, connoting revelation. It is, therefore, within this space of totalising change, that this thesis considers the role of cultic representation and the facilitation of narrative engagement with otherness and belonging.

            Drawing attention to the methods by which regimes of power seek to delegitimise the voices of those who attempt to destabilise them, this thesis identifies the trope of the cult as enabling fictions to deconstruct normative ideologies and propose alternative narratives across apocalyptic and millenarian spaces. This thesis focuses on race (Naber, 2006; Leitner, 2012; Spivak, 2006), gender (McGowan, 2018), and American identity (Ania, 2014; Žižek, 2010), to show how minority communities, underrepresented peoples, and those who face inequality as part of their daily lives can be represented through fictitious cults to challenge discourses and act as resistors (Thompson, 1997; Žižek, 2010), offering change in the apocalyptic sense: an unveiling, a complete removal, a rebirth.

Research Interests

'Infected with Terrible Purpose': Alien Messianism from 1950s Science Fiction to Contemporary Adaptation

My MA dissertation explored the critical observation that premillennial epistemologically-focused texts were adapted to be more ontologically-focused. Using messianic figures, I showed how the American science fiction genre exists as a hybrid space wherein epistemological and ontological debates can coexist.

My research interests include:

speculative and future fictions; contemporary literature; American popular culture; science-fiction; adaptations; videogame theory; literature and theology; fiction as resistance. 

Supervised By

Dr Andrew Tate, Reader in Literature, Religion and Aesthetics

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  • CenSAMM

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

  • Next-Gen 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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