The Modern Apocalypse

Thu Jan 31, 2008

Is the title of the graduate seminar I’m teaching now (borrowed from Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending). Here’s the course description:

The twenties and thirties were revolutionary, violent, low, and dishonest by turns. They were also haunted by the promise of a better world. This seminar will examine how writers of the British Isles envisioned the future and diagnosed the present in the interwar era. We will read works written in an overtly apocalyptic mode and those whose vision is more restrained, more concerned with the changing perception of time in the emerging modernity of the present. Also of interest will be literary reactions to Weber’s progressive “disenchantment” of the world and rationalization. We will read for signs of the political theology and aestheticizing of politics that led to fascism. Some of our reading will expand into Transatlantic, Colonial, and Continental contexts, though the focus will remain on Anglo-Irish work. Of particular interest will be the focus in recent modernist studies on literary representations of nationalism, and we will also read recent critical work on national identity in modernism by Jed Esty, Pericles Lewis, and others.

In preparation for the course, I’m reading a number of things I hadn’t yet encountered, such as Frederick Carter’s The Dragon of Revelation, for which Lawrence wrote Apocalypse as the introduction. Carter was apparently part of a group of English occultists that included Austin Spare, who Hitler wanted to commission for a portrait.