Lecture 03 - The End, and Afterwards


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Third lecture for my students in English 165EW, "Life After the End of the World," winter 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/w13/

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Lecture 03 - The End, and Afterwards

  1. 1. Lecture 3: The End, and Afterwards English 165EW Winter 2013 14 January 2013“The zombie, we feel, is a more pessimistic but nonetheless moreappropriate stand-in for our current moment, and specifically forAmerica in a global economy, where we feed off the products of therest of the planet, and, alienated from our own humanity, stumbleforward, groping for immortality even as we decompose. ” — Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry, “A Zombie Manifesto: The Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism”
  2. 2. General announcements● Please keep an eye on your spam/junk mail folder in your email client.● If you are trying to crash and have not yet sent me an email, please do so! I just need to know that youre still interested in taking the course.● Other questions before we get started?
  3. 3. The “Apocalypse”Pronunciation: /əˈpɒkəlɪps/ Etymology: < Latin apocalypsis,< Greek ἀποκάλυψις, n. of action < ἀποκαλύπτειν to uncover,disclose, < ἀπό off + καλύπτειν to cover.1. (With capital initial.) The ‘revelation’ of the future granted to St. John in the isle of Patmos. The book of the New Testament in which this is recorded.2. By extension: Any revelation or disclosure. a) Christian Church. The events described in the revelation of St John; the Second Coming of Christ and ultimate destruction of the world. b) More generally: a disaster resulting in drastic, irreversible damage to human society or the environment, esp. on a global scale; a cataclysm. Also in weakened use. (From the Oxford English Dictionary)
  4. 4. So what is a “revelation”?‘To veil’ comes from ME veilen, from the ME n veile,whence the English noun veil: and ME veile is adoptedfrom Old N. French, which, like Old French-French voile,derives from Medieval-Vulgar Latin vēla, from Latin uēla,plural of uēlum, “a sail,” but also “[a piece of] drapery, anawning”; originally from Indo-European *wegslom, from*weg-, “to weave.”Latin uēlāre has prefix-compound reuēlāre, “to pull backthe curtain, or covering, from,” hence “to disclose”: whenceOld French-Middle French reveler, whence “to reveal.”Derivative Late Latin reuēlātiō, “an uncovering, hence of asecret.” (Adapted from Eric Partridge’s Origins: An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English)
  5. 5. Post-apocalyptic fiction ...● At the same time, the apocalypse in each of the works we’re reading this quarter is a revelation of basic truths that were hidden before the apocalypse.● One of the revelations commonly made by (post-)apocalyptic literature is that “life” and the social structures that support it are precarious.● The revelation of the precarity of the social structures supporting our ways of life is one way that post-apocalyptic fiction produces the affective response of horror.
  6. 6. So, “the apocalypse” in post- apocalyptic fiction is ...● a disaster;● a radical break from previous ways of living;● a new beginning, for those who survive; and● a revelation of previously hidden things.In what directions does this lead? Some examples:● Survival fantasies (Day of the Triffids, The Walking Dead).● Opportunities for starting from scratch (Oryx and Crake).● Opportunities for redemption, in one sense of another (The Road).● Seeing how deep the rabbit-hole of horror goes (Blindness).
  7. 7. We’ll talk more about horror onWednesday, but a few words now … Tragedy is “an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude; it employs language that has been artistically enhanced […] it is presented in dramatic, not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents.” “tragedy is not an imitation of men, per se, but of human action and life and happiness and misery.” – Aristotle, Poetics (ca. 330 BCE)
  8. 8. “Horror, in this way, shows us our inherentskepticism about absolute progress. […]Dracula, The Call of Cthulu, or The Island of Dr.Moreau present a dark-regressive shadowimage of the bright and progressive veneer ofeighteenth- and nineteenth-century optimism.The origins of modern horror provide a vividpresentation of the inherent moral weaknessesand often-present darkness in the humanimagination.” – Philip Tallon, “Through a Mirror, Darkly” (2010)
  9. 9. What about the undead, then?“Horror arises not because Dracula destroysbodies, but because he appropriates andtransforms them. Having yielded to his assault,one literally ‘goes native’ by becoming avampire oneself. [Dracula’s victims] receive anew racial identity, one that marks them asliterally ‘Other.’ Miscegenation leads, not to themixing of races, but to the biological andpolitical annihilation of the weaker race by thestronger.” – Stephen Arata, “The Occidental Tourist” (1990)
  10. 10. But more specifically, zombies ...● have their origin, as a cultural construct, in Haitian Vodou folklore regarding priests/sorcerers who raise the dead (who are then called zombis) to work in the fields.● are thus, from the beginning, figures of laboring slaves without consciousness.● also have a deep association with Haitian slave rebellions, both because Vodou practices during the slave period were loci for anti-white sentiment and because Vodou rituals supposedly rendered soldiers insensitive to pain.
  11. 11. Zombies ...● threaten both the physical body and, even more directly, the endangered subject’s sense of identity.● point toward the fact that our senses of subjectivity depend on our bodies.● are boundary figures that terrify, in part, because of their inability to be classified into our normal categories: ● alive/dead ● human/animal ● slave/slave rebellion ● subject/object ● powerless/powerful
  12. 12. “Like most monsters, the zombie illuminates ourown discomfort with various kinds of bodies, butabove all it illustrates the ever-present and realthreat of the human body. We are all, in somesense, walking corpses, because this is inevitablythe state to which we must return. In imaginingthat humans are burdened with their own deaths,we can come to see one of the various ways thatthe zombie terrifies: not as an apocalyptic visionbut as a representation of the lived humancondition.” (Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry, “A Zombie Manifesto”)
  13. 13. “The individual is entirely nullified in the face ofthe economic powers. These powers are takingsociety’s domination over nature to unimaginedheights. While individuals as such are vanishingbefore the apparatus they serve, they areprovided for by that apparatus and better thanever before. In the unjust state of society thepowerlessness and pliability of the massesincrease with the quantity of goods allocated tothem.”– Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, preface to Dialectic of Enlightenment (xvii)