English R1B

Reading and Composition: Imagining the Collapse of Society

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2020 Gable, Nickolas
MWF 11-12

Book List

Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale; Butler, Octavia: Parable of the Sower; Kirkman and Moore: The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye; Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be made available online via bCourses, including various short poems, selections from longer works, newspaper articles, and short stories. Examples include “The Comet” by W.E.B. DuBois, selections from Virgil’s Aeneid, articles on the Ghost Dance religion, and works of religious prophecy.

I will also screen films in class, including Children of Men and Night of the Living Dead.


When a civilization falls, what becomes of those remaining? When society collapses, what is left? Is the end of the world just another beginning?

Fiction, particularly speculative fiction, has attempted to understand what might come if life as we know it were to suddenly and irrevocably change. In this class, we will examine works that contemplate life after unparalleled catastrophe. In examining works that consider the end of the world in one way or another, we will find that hope and despair are useful tools both to criticize and to reinforce ideologies. Along the way, we will encounter prophets, monsters, heroes, and the downtrodden, whose differing perspectives will help us to contemplate how identity, situation, and ability affect a person’s capacity (or even willingness) to survive and thrive when the world changes.

This class tasks us with becoming better readers and writers. Though our “texts” will take various forms—novels, poems, and films among them—we will develop and practice the skill of “close reading” to better understand and analyze our subject matter. In all cases, we will closely examine the details of the work in order to improve our own writing by producing clear, concise, and evidence-driven arguments.

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