The world keeps turning to apocalypticism. Time is imagined as proceeding ineluctably to a catastrophic, perhaps revelatory conclusion. Even when evacuated of distinctly religious content, a broadly ecclesial structure persists in conceptions of our precarious life and our collective journey to an inevitable fate—the extinction of the human species. It is commonly believed that we are propelled along this course by human turpitude, myopia, hubris or ignorance, and by the irreparable damage we have wrought to the world we inhabit. Yet, this apprehension is insidious. Such teleological convictions and crises-laden narratives lead us to undervalue contingent, hesitant and provisional forms of experience and knowledge.
The essays comprising this volume concern a range of writers’ engagements with apocalyptic reasoning. Extending from a reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Triumph of Life’ to critiques of contemporary American novels, they examine the ways in which ‘end times’ reasoning can inhibit imaginative reflection, blunt political advocacy or – more positively – provide a repertoire for the critique of complacency. By gathering essays concerning a wide range of periods and literary dispositions, this volume makes an important contribution to thinking about apocalypticism in literature but also as a social and political discourse. This book was originally published as a special issue of Studia Neophilologica.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Ongoing End: On the limits of apocalyptic narrative Michael Titlestad and David Watson
1. ‘A Shape … Crouching within the shadow of a tomb’: Shelley’s Qualified Apocalypse in ‘The Triumph of Life’ Merle Williams
2. Between Apocalypse and Extinction: Eschatology in Ezra Pound’s Poetry Mark Byron
3. This is not the way the world ends: Richard Hughes’s rejoinder to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies Michael Titlestad
4. Outlandish Apocalyptics and Creaturely Life in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux’ Michael Boyden
5. Vanishing Points; or, the Timescapes of the Contemporary American Novel David Watson
6. ‘It’s Not Dark Yet, but It’s Getting There’: Listening for the End Times in the Contemporary American Novel John Masterson
7. Ecological Apocalypse in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy Richard Alan Northover
8. Citrus noir: Strange Fruit in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange Ryan Palmer
Michael Titlestad is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes extensively on South African literature and culture, and also on modernist writing, particularly maritime fiction. In addition to co-editing English Studies in South Africa with Sofia Kostelac, he edits fiction.
David Watson is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Uppsala University, Sweden, where he specializes in American literature and culture. He has published on 19th century and modernist American poets, 19th century and contemporary novelists, and issues in transnational and translation studies, on which he has co-edited two volumes—Traversing Transnationalism (2010) and Literature, Geography, Translation: The New Comparative Horizons (2011).