• Dijana Tica
  • Emir Muhić
  • Željka Babić


Covid-19, like other outbreaks of infectious diseases, has reawakened our interest in pandemic literature. While ordinary people, in their feeling of fear and uncertainty, tend to look back at such books, hoping they will discover what to expect, learn how to behave, and find some hope and solace in the fact that people do manage to overcome such experiences and that all pandemics eventually end, literary critics dig deep into these stories, looking for similarities and differences, studying the ways pandemics are depicted, and exploring specific narrative techniques, language, style and motifs. On the other hand, the interest also rises among authors, who, inspired by the newest pandemic, decide to write books with similar topics, mostly with the purpose of warning people that they have to change something in their behaviour and everyday practices in order to avoid the repetition of similar diseases. The purpose of this paper is first to explore the role of literature during a pandemic. Second, the paper will give a review of various topics and genres connected with pandemic literature. Finally, the paper will attempt to examine the parallels between pandemic literature and real pandemics, especially Covid-19.


Keywords: pandemic literature, plague, flu, virus, uncertainty, fear, conspiracy theories.


Download data is not yet available.


Crosby, A. W. (2003). America’s forgotten pandemic: The influenza of 1918 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Defoe, D. (2001). A journal of the plague year. New York, NY: Dover Publications.
Givens, C. (2020, July 19). A history of American pandemic conspiracy theories. The Mary Sue. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from
Gray, M. E. (2007). Layers of meaning in La peste. In E. J. Hughes (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Camus (pp. 165–177). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Haith, C. (2020, March 16). Pandemics from Homer to Stephen King: What we can learn from literary history. The Conversation. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from
Horgan, J. (2019, May 2). Atonine plague. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from
Knapp, A. (2020, May 15). The original plandemic: Unmasking the eerily familiar conspiracy theories behind the Russian flu of 1889. Forbes. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from
Lepore, J. (2020, March 23). What our contagion fables are really about. The New Yorker. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from
Lokke, K. E. (2003). The last man. In E. Schor (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Mary Shelley (pp. 116–134). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Morens, D. M., & Taubenberger, J. K. (2018). The mother of all pandemics is 100 years old (and going strong)!. AJPH, 108(11), 1449–1454.
Outka, E. (2020). Viral modernism: The influenza pandemic and interwar literature. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Pamuk, O. (2020, April 23). What the great pandemic novels teach us (E. Oklap, Trans.). The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from
Reilly, P. (2015). Bills of mortality: Disease and destiny in plague literature from early modern to postmodern times. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Riva, M. A., Benedetti, M., & Cesana, G. (2014). Pandemic fear and literature: Observations from Jack London’s The scarlet plague. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 20(10), 1753–1757.
Shelley, M. (1996). The last man. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Literary Texts
Smallman, S. (2015). Whom do you trust? Doubt and conspiracy theories in the 2009 influenza epidemic. Journal of International and Global Studies, 6(2), 1–24.
Snowden, F. M. (2019). Epidemics and society: From the black death to the present. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Theroux, M. (2020, May 1). The end of coronavirus: What plague literature tells us about our future. The Guardian. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from
Winterson, J. (2001). Sexing the cherry. London, England: Vintage
Wolny, R. W. (2018). Disease, death and decay as exemplified by Daniel Defoe’s A journal of the plague year (1722). In R. W. Wolny, & K. Molek-Kozakowska (Eds.), Disease, death, decay in literatures and cultures (pp. 149–156). Opole, Poland: Uniwersytet Opolski.
How to Cite
Tica, D., Muhić, E., & Babić, Željka. (2021). PRESENTATION OF PANDEMICS IN LITERATURE. PALIMPSEST / ПАЛИМПСЕСТ, 6(11), 125-134.