English 150

Senior Seminar: The Apocalyptic Imagination

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Spring 2006 Skinfill, Mauri
MW 3-4:30 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Cooper, J.: The Pioneers; Chesnutt, C.: The Marrow of Tradition; Poe, E.: The Short Fiction (selected works); Twain, M.: Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court; Ellison, R.: Invisible Man; Faulkner, W.: ""Barn Burning""; West, N.: Day of the Locust; Didion, J.: Slouching Toward Bethlehem; DeLillo, D.: White Noise; Pynchon, T.: The Crying of Lot 49; Birk, S.: In Smog and Thunder; a course reader

Film Viewings: George Romero, Night of the Living Dead; Michael Tolkin, The Rapture; Steve De Jarnatt, Miracle Mile; David Fincher, Fight Club; P.T. Anderson, Magnolia.

Visual Art: Sandow Birk, Prisonation (selected works); Chester Arnold, Entropic Landscape (and selected works); Sandow Birk, Inferno (and selected works); Marina Moevs, Across the Road (and selected works) "


"When Lincoln's 1858 senate-race speech on The House Divided drew famously on biblical rhetoric to underscore the impending Union crisis over slavery, it offered one example of a peculiar American preoccupation?one now curiously shared by politicians, cultists, and Hollywood studios alike. Why does the idea of apocalypse figure so prominently in the fictions and practices of American culture? In a nation whose political discourse has consistently advanced the promise of the individual's paradise, how do we account for the hold that violent, apocalyptic endings have on the American imagination? This course will explore the history of American apocalyptic thinking as it is represented in a range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts, films and events. Specifically, we will consider the relation of apocalypse to the experiences of power and powerlessness, threat and revenge, purification and renewal. What roles do nationalism, technology and religious fanaticism play in the generation of particular apocalyptic scenarios? If apocalypse has emerged as a reoccurring trope in American art and culture, what social fantasies are satisfied by this particular form of what Frank Kermode has called ""the sense of an ending""? Course readings will survey representative examples of the American doomsday scenario as well as critical theories of the apocalyptic imaginary. "

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