The Post-Apocalyptic Imagination
Introduction to Cultural Studies: The Post-Apocalyptic Imagination
This class will introduce you to the interdisciplinary field of cultural studies. Students will acquaint themselves with some of the defining critical frameworks and methods of cultural studies from the Birmingham School and beyond. In so doing, they will deepen their understanding of how the complicated workings of cultural representation shape our social and political realities.
While one central objective of the class is the development of methodological aptitudes, we will pursue this objective by taking “the post-apocalyptic imagination” as our unifying theme. We may encounter politico-religious understandings of the apocalypse from a number of traditions, but we will focus primarily on secular imaginings of the end of the world as we know it – and what comes after the end – in the contemporary moment. As we explore cultural representations of cataclysmic events that range from the outbreak of zoontological disease to alien invasion to environmental disasters to nuclear war – and let’s not forget the zombie apocalypse! – we will explore a number of cultural anxieties engaged and expressed by the post-apocalyptic imagination. In so doing, we will explore how the post-apocalyptic imagination is keyed to contemporary debates about climate change, genetic manipulation, immigration, policing, and the list goes on. We will position cultural representations of the end of the world as a primary site for the production of difference – race, gender, sexuality, class, age, ability, species, and so forth – as well as the configuration of relations across lines of difference and between forms of difference. We will interrogate how the post-apocalyptic imagination can both endorse political apathy and foment political resistance to seek something more than survival. And of course, we will beef up our zombie apocalypse kits.
Course texts are yet to be determined, but they will include theoretical readings as well as cultural texts that range from films such as World War Z, Children of Men, Twelve Monkeys, Interstellar, 28 Days Later; novels such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and H.B. Wells The War of the Worlds; and other cultural artifacts that may include video games such as Fallout and The Last of Us as well as graphic novels such as The Walking Dead.