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The Forgotten Apocalypse: Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," Traumatic Memory, and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918

The Forgotten Apocalypse: Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," Traumatic Memory, and... The Forgotten Apocalypse: Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," Traumatic Memory, and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by David A. Davis As Katherine Anne Porter's short novel "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" opens, Miranda fitfully endures a vivid nightmare. She sees herself on horseback desperately racing from Death, the pale rider, who has already taken her grandfather, an aunt, a cousin, her "decrepit hound, and [her] silver kitten," and when he reaches her, she realizes that "he is no stranger to [her]" (270). Her nightmare tangles images of life and death with images of remembering and forgetting, and the relationship between survival and memory is a recurring motif in the story. Porter's allusion to the apocalyptic horseman described in Revelation proves to be appropriate because the story takes places during the influenza pandemic of 1918, the greatest public health catastrophe in modern history. The interplay between death and memory in "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" gives an aesthetic dimension to the pandemic's horrifying consequences and raises questions about literature as a form of traumatic memory. In the spring of 2009 fear of a swine flu pandemic and ongoing fear of a potential avian flu pandemic awakened dormant memories of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

The Forgotten Apocalypse: Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," Traumatic Memory, and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
1534-1461
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Abstract

The Forgotten Apocalypse: Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," Traumatic Memory, and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by David A. Davis As Katherine Anne Porter's short novel "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" opens, Miranda fitfully endures a vivid nightmare. She sees herself on horseback desperately racing from Death, the pale rider, who has already taken her grandfather, an aunt, a cousin, her "decrepit hound, and [her] silver kitten," and when he reaches her, she realizes that "he is no stranger to [her]" (270). Her nightmare tangles images of life and death with images of remembering and forgetting, and the relationship between survival and memory is a recurring motif in the story. Porter's allusion to the apocalyptic horseman described in Revelation proves to be appropriate because the story takes places during the influenza pandemic of 1918, the greatest public health catastrophe in modern history. The interplay between death and memory in "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" gives an aesthetic dimension to the pandemic's horrifying consequences and raises questions about literature as a form of traumatic memory. In the spring of 2009 fear of a swine flu pandemic and ongoing fear of a potential avian flu pandemic awakened dormant memories of

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 26, 2011

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