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Jessica Hurley | Still Writing Backwards: Literature After the End of the World

Abstract

This article challenges the conflation in late twentieth-century culture of postmodernism with post-apocalypticism, arguing that the central features of postmodernism—the repeal of the Grand Narrative model of history, the decentering of the subject, and the reimagining of the world as non-anthropocentric—are also central to an ethics of apocalypse that seeks to avoid actual extinction even as it imaginatively engages with it. Through a reading of
Walter J. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, it argues that through literature we can encounter the apocalypse not as the promised end to the project of modernity but as a way of countering modernity’s more destructive tendencies.

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