Interdisciplinary Teaching Ideas

Station Eleven


  • Base any visual art project on scenes from the novel.Art
  • Research the origins of the graphic novel form.
  • Mandel has stated that she is thinking of writing a script for the Doctor Eleven comic books. Provide the art for any pages of those comics.
  • Critique the comic book included as a promotional insert in some copies of the novel.
  • Discuss the meaning of the motto “Survival is insufficient” to the arts and humanities.
  • Research ways in which works of art have been preserved and protected in times of disaster such as war or pandemic.


  • Discuss the differences between the categories of outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic.
  • Mandel notes that pandemics such as the bubonic plague shaped the world of Shakespeare’s theatre as well as the plot of her novel. Research the origin and spread of modern pandemics such as various types of influenza, bubonic plague, or HIV/AIDS. Determine how the pandemic spread and how it/if was contained. Compare survival rates to those in the novel.
  • Research the history of vaccines and their effect on containing or ending epidemics and pandemics.
  • In what ways did the characters in the novel survive the Georgia Flu? Would such measures be effective against most viruses?
  • In what ways has global travel affected the spread of pandemics (in both the novel and the real world)?
  • What is the incubation period for the Georgia Flu, and how does it compare to that of real viruses?
  • What would happen to other common diseases if all healthcare dollars are only spent on the plague/diseases in the novel? Research how healthcare dollars are decided on & distributed in regards to specific diseases.
  • Research the use of genetically altered mosquitos to contain the spread of modern diseases like Zika. If the technology was available, how would have this affected the outcome of the disease in the novel?  How would the researchers decide where to release them and would some populations of patients benefit more than others?



  • In the novel’s post-apocalyptic society, what forms of law enforcement remain, if any?
  • Kirsten has killed two people, and others in the Traveling Symphony have killed more. Under what circumstances is killing considered self-defense?  Does this vary from state to state? Might any of the killings in the novel be considered self-defense based on these criteria?
  • The Prophet plays a large role in the novel. Research and discuss factors that typically contribute to the rise of cult leaders.
  • While based on a different type of apocalypse than the one presented in Station Eleven, Adam Chodorow’s essay “Death and Taxes and Zombies” provides a unique approach to discussions of estate and income taxes. (Permalink to the scholarly source follows:


  • Station Eleven begins with a performance of King Lear and the Traveling Symphony is a continuing presence in the novel after the ravages of the flu. Discussion of the role of drama in the world before and after the pandemic could focus on the value of performance and art.
  • Examine the role of Shakespearean plays in the novel, and focus on the universal nature of those works.
  • Research the effect that outbreaks of plague had on the theatre of Shakespeare’s day.
  • Perform any of the scenes mentioned in Station Eleven.
  • Discuss the value of the performing, literary, and musical arts in education in an increasingly utilitarian society, taking Station Eleven into consideration.


  • Examine the role of education in the post-apocalyptic society of the novel.
  • The Traveling Symphony visits different settlements. How are children treated in each one, and what subjects are viewed as important for the next generation to master?
  • Critique the teaching guide for Station Eleven published by the Michigan Humanities Council. (Link to the guide follows:


  • The novel revolves around the motto painted on the caravan of the Traveling Symphony and tattooed on Kirsten’s wrist: “Survival is Insufficient.”  Comment on this idea/theme in terms of the study of literature.
  • For Children’s Literature, encourage students to choose a work of juvenile or teen fiction dealing with apocalyptic themes. (Some suggestions might be the Divergent series, the Ember series, the Hunger Games series, World War Z, )
  • Examine the use of non-linear plot and shifts in narrative perspective in Station Eleven.
  • The Traveling Symphony typically performs the work of William Shakespeare. What explanation is given for this in the novel?  What does it indicate about the nature of Shakespeare’s work and the needs of the audience in the post-flu world?
  • Arthur Leander dies during the performance of King Lear. Why is this drama particularly apt to set the tone for and fit the themes of the novel?
  • Discuss the symbolism of the Doctor Eleven
  • Identify the names of Shakespearean characters shared by Station Eleven characters, and discuss their thematic significance.
  • Examine the role of libraries in the emerging societies of the novel, especially the New Petoskey Library.


  • Select at least two films dealing with a post-apocalyptic world for comparison to the novel.
  • Examine ways in which the works of Shakespeare have been adapted to film, especially in times of political or social upheaval. In what ways do the directors reflect the times in which the works are performed?
  • Research the development of film from stage performances to silent movies to “talkies.”


  • After reading, classes may discuss why shared reading (such as our college novel) is required on many college and university campuses nationwide.  See the description of our college novel initiative on the college website.  What is the purpose of the novel and how does that relate to a liberal arts education? How might that be tied into the idea presented in Station Eleven that “survival is insufficient”?
  • In what ways would daily life be changed without the existence of technology? How do students feel they would be able to adapt?  What would be most missed?


  • Compose a movie poster or book jacket forStation Eleven.
  • Illustrate any scene or theme from the novel.
  • Design a masthead for the New Petoskey Times.
  • Create a handbill or poster announcing the arrival of The Traveling Symphony.


  • Use the essay “To Carry the Fire,” dealing with conservatism and post-apocalyptic fiction (including Station Eleven) as the basis for a class project or discussion. Permalink to the text follows:
  • Research ways in which the outbreak of pandemics have influenced the course of human history (bubonic plague, influenza, etc.).
  • Research the ways people attempted to control the spread of disease during outbreaks of influenza, bubonic plague, etc.
  • Assign books such as American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013 to be read and discussed in conjunction with the college novel.


  • The members of the Traveling Symphony are excited to learn of the existence of a newspaper (The New Petoskey Times), and Kirsten is interviewed for a story. Why is the re-emergence of the press important? What does it indicate about the society in the novel?
  • Using library databases such as the historical New York Times, locate news articles dealing with outbreaks, epidemics, and/or pandemics and assess ways in which they have been reported in different periods.
  • Jeevan makes the career change from paparazzo to paramedic before the events of the novel take place. What is the role of the paparazzi in journalism, and why are they often considered problematic or outside the mainstream?
  • What are some of the reasons the characters in the novel might be interested in locating old magazines or newspapers, discussing commercials, trying to remember the role and appearance of computers, etc.?



  • Kirsten cannot remember anything regarding the year after the virus first occurred. What might be the possible physiological and psychological explanations for this amnesia?
  • The Prophet plays a large role in the novel. What factors typically contribute to the rise of cult leaders?
  • Discuss the essay “Metaphor of the Living Dead: Or, the Effect of the Zombie Apocalypse on Public Policy Discourse” in conjunction with the college novel. (Permalink to the essay follows:
  • Research psychological effects on those who survive disasters such as pandemics and compare to the characters in the novel.


  • The Bible is referenced frequently in the portions of the novel dealing with the evolving community in the airport. How does religious faith (or religious fanaticism) shape the plot of the novel?
  • In conjunction with Station Eleven, the essay “A Sociologist Appeals to Theological Hope in Postmodern Apocalypses” could be useful to class projects or discussion. (Permalink to the source follows:


  • Research the role childhood trauma plays in the development of characters such as Kirsten and Tyler.
  • Examine the decision of the Traveling Symphony regarding the runaway who stows away with them. What child welfare issues are addressed in this plotline?
  • In what ways has the family unit changed or evolved in the world described in Station Eleven?


  • Determine what class structures, if any, exist in the post-flu world of the novel?
  • In conjunction with reading Station Eleven, using the essay “Surviving at Any Cost,” which deals with ethically questionable decisions made in a virtual reality simulation, could form the basis for class projects or discussions. (Permalink to the source follows:
  • The various types of societies that emerge in the decades after the epidemic can be a basis for discussion, as can the two societies in the world of the Doctor Eleven
  • Discuss possible reasons for the surge in popularity of post-apocalyptic narratives (in literature as well as in popular culture) in contemporary society.
  • Compare the differing groups of survivors (the settlements and the Symphony) to the ways in which societies re-form in other post-apocalyptic films, novels, and TV shows.