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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

“I don’t believe in the future. I think we’re all doomed”: The Contemporary Apocalyptic Imagination

17th August 2016, 17:30 to 18:30, Alington House, Diletta de Cristofaro (University of Nottingham)

Part of our Late Summer Lectures series, showcasing cutting edge research from new scholars. Free and open to all, especially members of the public. Join the conversation on Twitter via #LateSummerLectures.

The lack of belief in the future, the idea that, as Douglas Coupland’s JPod (2006) puts it, “we’re all doomed”, is central to contemporary post-apocalyptic fiction. This lecture explores the contemporary apocalyptic imagination, its difference from the traditional apocalyptic paradigm, its relationship with concepts like the “Anthropocene” and the “risk society”, as well as its fundamental concern with time.

Diletta de Cristofaro will begin her talk by outlining a brief history of the apocalyptic imagination. Whilst we generally think of the apocalypse as a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions and consequences, something which brings about a dystopian post-apocalyptic scenario, apocalypse etymologically denotes the revelation of a utopian teleology in history. Religious apocalyptic writings, such as the Book of Revelation, flourish at a time of crisis because their narratives seek to make sense of troubled periods by revealing that history is tending towards a final resolution which paves the way for a utopian renewal. This apocalyptic conception of history as tending towards utopia founds one of the key notions of western modernity: progress. Yet the doomed futures of contemporary post-apocalyptic fictions suggest that western civilization has abandoned the modern faith in progress.

Considering novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea (2014), Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007), and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003-2013), Diletta will explore how the contemporary apocalyptic imagination responds to the present conjuncture. To this end, she draws on the notions of Anthropocene – the geological era in which humans have significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystem – and risk society – a society preoccupied with managing and preventing risks it has itself produced. It is not merely that post-apocalyptic dystopian scenarios implicate progress in anthropogenic climate change and other proliferating risks, but that progress itself is a product of the apocalyptic temporal imagination. Diletta will therefore discuss how contemporary post-apocalyptic fictions are essentially concerned with the critique of the apocalyptic conception of time.

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