TuWTh 03:00-5:30 pm 179 Dwinelle Instructor: Caitlin Scholl

Session D July 2nd – August 10th

The Hunger GamesWorld War ZDivergentThe Walking DeadZone OneSan AndreasThe RoadThe Leftovers: the prevalence of dystopias and catastrophic disaster narratives in current American popular culture—in everything from Hollywood blockbusters to Young Adult fiction to prestige TV and highbrow novels—would seem to suggest that we are living through a golden age for the apocalyptic imagination. As Fredric Jameson’s “someone” famously observed, it is now “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” For if the subject matter is dire—reflecting (and generating) our deepest anxieties regarding the existential integrity of our bodies and our world—it is also immensely, lucratively, entertaining.

This summer we will study the current end-times vogue in relation to several of its earlier manifestations in American history through the careful critical analysis of literary texts and films alongside select historical documents and scholarship. In so doing we will trace how the tropes and concerns of these fictional representations have been intertwined with, and working through, particular histories of genocide, racism, and misogyny, and we will note how, in some respects, we are already living in a postapocalyptic world. A few of the constellations that we will explore include:

  • The early 21st-century zombie craze and its roots in both plantation slavery and Civil Rights-era racial anxieties;
  • The #MeToo movement and 17th-century Puritan doomsday theology;
  • The Dakota Access Pipeline protest and the 19th-century Ghost Dance;
  • And resonances between the Cold War nuclear imaginary and the current discourse on climate change.