Year of Publication



Arts and Sciences



Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Michelle Sizemore


The purpose of this thesis is to explore the aspects of pandemic fiction that extend beyond the illness itself. In this thesis, I show that while the disease that spreads is a large focus of pandemic fiction, the truths that spring from these novels reveal larger societal issues, such as class hierarchies, racial inequalities, and failings of the government to fight the pandemic. In fact, pandemics act as catalysts for the uncovering of these societal ills, and the authors of pandemic fictions bring these greater faults of society to the forefront of their novels. I analyze three novels from the American literary tradition that place the disease at the center of the plot. The novels that will be the focus of this work are Arthur Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the Year 1793 by Charles Brockden Brown, Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter, and Zone One by Colson Whitehead .Despite each of these novels having different diseases and different political landscapes, they are all united by the fact that each of their pandemics take a backseat to the social changes that they exacerbate. More specifically, all of these novels are joined by a theme of social contagion – one that is not defined by the spread of the disease but rather the emotions that pervade the social fabric.

Author Bio

Riley Droppleman is a double major in biology and English.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 21, 2025