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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Apocalypse Now and Then Seminar - The Death of the Sun: Victorians at the End of Time

8th November 2010, 17:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr Darryl Jones (Trinity College Dublin)

This is the second seminar in the Apocalypse Now and Then seminar series.

For the Victorians, the Second Law of Thermodymanics (the universal principal of decay observable in nature; the irreversibility of nature) was an unwinnable game, remorselessly inevitable, unavoidable.  This seminar will glance at the cultural resonances of the Second Law, some of the ways in which the certain knowledge of the death of the sun insinuated itself, in often displaced fashion, into cultural production in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the sky over London regularly grew dark at noon.

Depictions of apocalypse - understood as revelation and/or the end of the world, in both religious and secular discourses - serve a variety of functions, ranging from the political to the scientific, and the theological to the anthropological. They can reinforce or subvert power structures, interrogate what it is to be human, and figure the future in order to reflect on the present.

This interdisciplinary seminar series brings together experts from a number of disciplines to reflect on two intertwined themes. The first explores the functions served by end-of-world narratives and pictures, that is, it focuses on why apocalyptic stories are told rather than on what particular stories are told. The second analyses the ways in which the apocalyptic is characterized by a relationship with particular sorts of form, language and image, for example, metaphors and fictions, pictures, performances, and poems.

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