Doomsday Scenarios in Popular Culture and the Cultural and Scientific Realities of How the World Might End
Course Instructor: Tom Contreras
Doomsday and apocalyptic scenarios have always been a part of western and American popular culture. During the Cold War, the 'end of the world' became a subject of many American movies, books, and television programs reflecting not only the fear of nuclear war, but the political and cultural climate of post-war America. Even after the Cold War, with the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union having ended, the end of human civilization remains a popular subject of film, literature, and the news media as new threats (both real and perceived) to western societies and the world arise. In this course, we will examine how the end of the world 1) has been portrayed in contemporary literature and film (for example, Cormac McCarthy's bookThe Road and Terry Gilliam's filmTwelve Monkeys), 2) how past and current doomsday scenarios have been reported on by the media, and 3) whether or not there is a scientific basis for some of the more plausible scenarios often reported on by the media. We will also examine how these scenarios can influence, or reflect, not only how we, as a society, envision the future, but how we view the present.