Theodore Martin, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee | Newberry

Theodore Martin, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Thursday, October 23, 2014

5-7 pm


Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Literature Seminar
“Survival Skills, or, Work and Plague”
Theodore Martin, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

This essay reads the recent resurgence of end-of-the-world fiction in light of anxieties about the endlessness of postindustrial work. Although the apocalyptic novel claims an affinity with the temporalities of rupture and revolution, the genre is equally committed to narrating the monotonous rhythms of survival. How, this essay wonders, do the banal routines of post-apocalyptic survival relate to the routines of late capitalist work? The very notion of survival skills, I suggest, takes on a rather different meaning in an era of flexible accumulation. If the point of the skills necessary to survive the apocalypse is that they can be distinguished from the alienated tasks of late capitalist work, the point of late capitalist work is that such a distinction is increasingly difficult to make. In the drama of survival, we see how apocalyptic fantasies of the end of work come to an end in an age of neoliberal ideology and mass unemployment.

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