Literature of the Apocalypse

Generic 1

Course Description: It's the End: Literature of the Apocalypse. The end of the world fascinates Americans. Despite a terrible track record, religious prophets continue to predict that the Christian apocalypse will occur on their watch. Meanwhile, in the secular world, dystopic futures are the setting of a number of blockbuster games and movies like FalloutWorld War Z, and Planet of the Apes. Why the modern and ancient obsession with the end of humanity? This course seeks to answer that question by drawing connections between ancient and modern depictions of the end of the world. A wide variety of texts will be examined: ancient religious texts, cult film classics, graphic novels, and literary works from famous authors. Beginning with ancient mythological traditions, we will piece together the social purpose of stories about the end. In the 19th century, a new type of literature predicts a radically different fate for humanity. These science fiction tropes are resurrected in the 1950s with the advent of the atom bomb, when fears of a nuclear Armageddon terrified Americans. Finally, we will consider how current interest in widespread disaster (environmental, genetic, viral, or zombie) has evolved the genre yet again. Ultimately, we will try to recognize the humanity in our enduring concern with whether the world ends in a bang or a whimper.

Comments: Junior elective.

UC / CSU Approved