Some Versions of Apocalypse

Winter 2018-2019


Mark Miller

The end of the world is one of the most durable of mankind's obsessions, from prophetic texts of antiquity to today's fascination with zombie plagues, environmental disaster, and nuclear winter. In this course we will explore what is both fearful and alluring about catastrophe on an unimaginable scale, as we read and view some paradigmatic apocalyptic works across a wide historical range. The course will focus on close attention to the aesthetics of individual works, locating those works in their historical contexts, and the conceptual analysis of the texts' motivating concerns. We will especially attend to the relationship between aesthetic form and the political, economic, and subjective forms that mediate catastrophe--as well as the ways that the end of things asks us to think beyond mediation. Texts include the biblical Book of Revelation, William Langland's medieval allegory Piers Plowman, Daniel Defoe's early modern chronicle of the black death A Journal of the Plague Year, Cormac McCarthy's postapocalyptic novel The Road, and both the novel and film versions of World War Z. This is a 2018-19 Signature Course in the College. (Fiction)