World Literature and Planetary Catastrophe
Reading List Description
Dr Florian Mussgnug’s research on twenty-first century narratives of global catastrophe is situated at the intersection of three vibrant disciplinary fields: world literature, risk and disaster studies and the environmental humanities. It explores genre as a process of creative expression and selection that displays and displaces established poles of institutionalized power, across national, cultural and linguistic boundaries. Focusing on ideas of the planetary – specifically in relation to global existential risk – Mussgnug argues that the cultural force of genre literature is only partly located in their specific discursive and geopolitical context and must be understood as an open-ended trajectory.
His work explores the relevance of apocalyptic thinking to the emergent, paradigmatic concept of the Anthropocene and examines how cultural accounts of global catastrophe have changed and evolved in response to new perceptions and temporalities of existential risk and planetary connectedness. Twentieth-century apocalypse fiction focused on global ‘events’ such as lethal pandemics, devastating comet strikes and nuclear wars. As the gravity of the present environmental crisis becomes more evident, stories of planetary catastrophe have become progressively associated with the slow, irreversible deterioration of environmental conditions and with the potentially catastrophic global interconnection of technologies, exchanges and movements. The distinction between so-called ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ apocalypse appears increasingly meaningless in an age that has come to view Earth as a single, interlocked feedback system.
Mussgnug’s forthcoming monograph maps a growing interest in narratives of emergency, global catastrophe and survival in a damaged world. Drawing widely from twenty-first century literature and film, he argues that apocalyptic thinking plays a key role in contemporary conceptions of human vulnerability, shaping pervasive stories and values. Coherence will be achieved through three broad, cross-disciplinary concepts: revelation, resilience and radical hope. Each term corresponds here to a corpus of primary texts and to a different social and political conception of apocalypse fiction: as an articulation of anxious paralysis, a site of progressive activism and a means to building more livable futures.
Download the reading list here: World Literature and Planetary Catastrophe