Plague time (again)

Bryan Waterman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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 (1799-1800) 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-766
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican literature; a journal of literary history, criticism and bibliography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Contagion narratives
  • Epidemics in literature
  • Temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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