How have writers, filmmakers, and artists imagined ecological disaster and the end of the world? What are our images of lost worlds and our stories of extinction, including our own as a species? In what ways have representations of apocalypse changed over the last 200 years?
The module starts with fossil finds of extinct animals and severe weather in the nineteenth century, both of which led to a sense of impending doom, before addressing twentieth-century concerns about pandemics, machine takeover, and environmental pollution. In our own age, biodiversity loss and reports of climate change make extinction an issue more pressing than ever before, leading scientists to suggest that ours is the Anthropocene – the sixth age of mass extinction and the first geological epoch for which homo sapiens is responsible. By exploring how natural and man-made disasters have variously been conceptualised in fiction, poetry, painting, photography and film, and across disciplinary boundaries from geology to philosophy to cultural studies, this module addresses some of our deepest fears about the future of the planet and about ourselves as a species, including our complex relations to non-humans and non-living materials.
Topics and key concepts addressed on this module include: deep time, fossils, volcanism, asteroid collision, evolution, degeneration, zoonosis, contagion, bio-engineering, posthumanism, cybernetic society, Novacene, materialism, ecocriticism, animal studies, rewilding, de-extinction, dinosaurs, whales, whale oil, fossil fuels, climate fiction, petrofiction, and oil-aesthetics.
- Module Supervisor: Karin Littau