Abstract

This essay probes literary representations of pandemic temporalities to argue that plague reshapes our sense and experience of time in specific ways: It opens contact with the epidemic past to restructure historical understanding and attendant forms of identity; it promotes utopian or cosmopolitan fantasies of shared vulnerability and future inoculation; it marks survivors with a kind of zombie consciousness in an unending, limitless present. Drawing on American works from Charles Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn ([2 vols., 1799–1800] 2008) to Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (1992–95), this essay situates their discussions of plague time within broader traditions stretching from Thucydides to Daniel Defoe to Albert Camus.

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