The objective of this course is to explore our
culture’s fascination with the end of the world, whether perceived as being
supernatural, natural, or human in origin, as seen in contemporary and classic
fiction. We will delve into the historical views about the perceived end of the
world as seen in various cultures, and what the fiction of our own modern times
shows about our eschatological concerns.
We will approach the genre from a myriad of mediums.
Three iconic apocalyptic novels will make up the heart of the course: Margaret
Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and Cormac
McCarthy’s The Road. We will situate these novels within the larger
realm of apocalyptic science fiction as represented in short stories. Beginning
with early endeavors in the genre from Jack London and H. G. Wells, we will map
the transformations in the genre as authors Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and
Octavia Butler address their visions of apocalypse. We will also explore
iterations in the genre from music, film, television, and graphic novels.
–Exposure and exploration of a genre of
literature as expressed in various media: short story, novel, film, and graphic
–Increased awareness of the continuities and
changes in literary styles and cultures, particularly in the 20th
century, but also in the context of a tradition that has spanned two millenia.
–Improved analytical and critical thinking
skills through multiple writing assignments and in-class discussion.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
A class reader.