Section 1: Tuesday and Thursday 2:00-3:15 PM

Issue #5: Imagining the Post-Apocalypse in Fiction and Film
Professor: Adam Beach
The genre of apocalyptic literature has long been associated with times of crisis and distress.  Perhaps one of the most important examples in the Western tradition, the Biblical Book of Revelation, was written as a response to the horrible persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire.  Since that time, authors and film-makers have turned to imaginations of apocalypse, the end of the world, and life after the collapse of contemporary social structures to take on a host of questions and concerns.  Many of these questions are simply existential: what does human life mean in the absence of modern society?  What parts of human society and culture will remain after periods of catastrophe and collapse?  As we have learned more about the universe and as our own technology has advanced, we feel the fragility of our lives and our societies in a profound way.  The post-apocalyptic mode allows us to consider human life in the aftermath of nuclear war, an asteroid striking from space or other natural disasters, disease (caused by mutating viruses or genetically engineered variants), a catastrophic breakdown of our technology (like the electrical grid), and the exhaustion of the Earth’s environment and natural resources.  This anxious genre can also be used to explore other imaginary threats and fantasies such as invasion by zombies or extraterrestrial civilizations.
This course will allow students to explore cultural theories surrounding apocalypse and to craft a research project that will allow for in-depth study of key post-apocalyptic texts.  Along the way, we will consider these key questions: do post-apocalyptic fictions allow us to productively manage widespread cultural and social anxieties or are they partly responsible for a pervasive unease about the state of our civilization?  To what extent do these fictions represent a sort of dark wish for the destruction of our current state of life in postmodern capitalist societies and, perhaps, for a different or more authentic way of being human?  In what ways do authors use the post-apocalyptic mode to critique or support contemporary social, cultural, or political developments related to gender, race, sexuality, class, and technological development?
Students will carry out research over two semesters that will culminate in their capstone projectin the Spring, a project that will be considered for publication in the fifth issue of the Digital Literature Review (DLR).  As part of the DLR team, students will also be responsible for contributing to and producing the DLR blog (, for designing and creating the fifth issue of the DLR (, and for publicizing and promoting our work as well as for soliciting and editing papers from undergraduate students around the globe. In addition to earning course credit and immersive learning experience, you will gain experience in research and scholarship, professional writing and editing, digital design and publishing, and/or emerging media and publicity.
While most students will earn 3 hours for ENG 400 in the Fall and 3 hours for ENG 444 in the
Spring, course credits are negotiable, and, if you are accepted into the course, I will work with you to fit the class into your program of study and to negotiate with your home department about course equivalencies.
If you are interested in joining the class, please contact Dr. Adam Beach ( for more information.