Imagining the World's End: Apocalyptic Representations in American Literature - April 30 - May 3

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

46th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
Toronto, Ontario
April 30th – May 3rd 2015

Bestselling catastrophe literature from the 1960s such as Walter M. Miller's nuclear disaster, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960), and Kurt Vonnegut's chemical paranoia in Cat's Cradle (1963) reveal that American authors have imagined the apocalypse for decades. Later fiction emerges from Vonnegut and Miller's precedent to re-imagine the world's end: Don Delillo's White Noise (1985) notoriously represents the end of the world with a chemical contagion ("The Airborne Toxic Event"), Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower (1993) illustrates social collapse when water becomes more valuable than money, and Max Brooks' World War Z (2006) and Colson Whitehead's Zone One (2011) both chronicle a zombie war. These novels, and the young adult post-apocalyptic series The Hunger Games, demonstrate escalating apocalypse representation in fiction and the popular appeal of this genre. Contemporary film also reflects the ongoing fascination with the apocalypse through literary adaptations, such as Children of Men (2006) and The Road (2009). Additionally, "Zombie Apocalypse" material is rapidly disseminated this year as Isaac Marion's novel, Warm Bodies (2013), was adapted to film and released last February and World War Z's adaptation was released last June with a sequel in pre-production. In the realm of television AMC's The Walking Dead, based on the comics, continues to gain loyal viewers.

This roundtable investigates representations of the apocalypse (environmental, nuclear, pandemic disease, or other) and welcomes submissions from contemporary American literature or analysis of screen adaptations. The focus of this roundtable is to engage in lively conversation and investigate why the apocalypse continues to be increasingly depicted in fiction and what accounts for the mainstream appeal of this genre; a popularity that is especially demonstrated by the commercial success of The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead.

Interested scholars will submit an abstract on the NeMLA website: go to and follow the instructions there to create a user account, and submit the abstract directly to session (15151).

Abstract Deadline: September 30, 2014