The Prospero of Wonderland; or, Miranda Carroll, Author of Station Eleven


Graley Herren


Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven (2014) opens with the on-stage death of Arthur Leander during a performance of King Lear. On that same evening the deadly Georgia Flu breaks out in Toronto, a pandemic which kills most of the world’s human population. The victims include Arthur’s ex-wife Miranda Carroll, creator of a series of graphic novels, Dr. Eleven, set on the space colony Station Eleven. The novel also follows the Traveling Symphony, a troupe of wandering players who perform Shakespeare to post-apocalyptic survivors. Station Eleven owes many debts to King Lear, but I am more interested in the novel’s subtle intertextual dialogue with The Tempest. Mandel replicates Shakespeare’s metatheatre about an artist-hero, mirroring the creation and choreography of alternate realities in the metafiction of Station Eleven. I contend that Miranda Carroll is not only the creator of Dr. Eleven: she is also the creative agency behind all the narratives of Station Eleven. She is the Prospero of the book, the intelligent designer of imaginary worlds within worlds. Her first name must come from Prospero’s daughter in The Tempest, and her last name surely alludes to Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice stories. Miranda guides readers through multiple looking-glasses, first by transforming her world into the cosmic wonderland of Dr. Eleven, then by transmuting it again into a post- apocalyptic mirror world of death and rebirth. Miranda’s trajectory resembles that of Prospero, moving from revenge against those who wronged her toward atonement, forgiveness, and mercy.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.