400-Level Course Award


ENGL 499: Independent Study

Date of Award


Description or Abstract

In her apocalyptic novel, The Last Man, Mary Shelley creates a world in which Nature seeks to humble, eliminate, and emasculate empire, reducing humanity to a single man, with the use of plague, revolution, and madness. Empire is the accumulation of political systems that are largely male, patriarchal structures. In the novel, disease acts as a metaphor for revolution and femininity which in turn destroys and deconstructs empire and the legacies of mankind. Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors will provide this research with the vocabulary to draw out the metaphor and the connective tissue to relate the topic to such disparate fields and discourses as hysteria, psychoanalysis, orientalism, and political science. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this research offers a window into these perpetuated binary representations of pandemic as a feminine, emasculating force that continue to limit and inhibit humanity’s response to pandemic. This essay is part of a larger project that studies the pattern, found in pandemic literature, of feminine natural forces nullifying man’s attempts at empire.