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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3396 Fictions of the End: Apocalypse and After

20 creditsClass Size: 20

School of English

Module manager: Dr Nicholas Ray

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature or equivalent or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English.

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

On this module we examine a range of fictional texts, from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century, which imagine the end of the world as we know it. Etymologically ‘apocalypse’ involves disclosure or revelation (the Greek apokalyptein means ‘to uncover’ or ‘reveal’). We explore what literary texts seek to reveal or uncover about the world as it is by imagining its annihilation or depletion in a time to come; about what it means to be human by imagining a future humanity deprived of the social institutions, conventions, and even biological capabilities, that appear to define us; about the existence of the planet without human life; about the conceptual and aesthetic challenges of imagining total extinction. The different ends envisioned in the fiction we study are brought about by a variety of causes: ecological crises, nuclear disasters, pandemics, organic degeneration; the cause of some remains enigmatically unspecified. We consider the texts in relation to the different historical circumstances they respond to and/or appear to anticipate imaginatively: theories of evolution; the nuclear arms race; the genetic revolution; climate change. We also consider how different texts rework ancient apocalyptic tropes from the Book of Revelation, and take account of some challenging theoretical perspectives derived from a range of thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, Lee Edelman, and Eugene Thacker.


- To study a range of literary texts from the last 100 years or so which imagine the coming of apocalypse or life/existence after it.
- To explore why and how fictions of apocalypse are told by different authors, and in response to a range of historical circumstances.
- To engage with a range of important conceptual and theoretical approaches to the idea of apocalypse and 'ending'.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module students will:
- be acquainted with a broad range of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction written between the late nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries;
- have a critical understanding of some of the contextual concerns - political, social, ecological, anthropological etc - which apocalyptic fiction explores;
- be familiar with some important critical/theoretical approaches to apocalypse and post-apocalypse, and be able to engage these in the reading of apocalypse fiction.

Skills outcomes
Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
Critical reasoning.
Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
IT skills.
Time management and organisational skills.
Independent learning.


HG Wells, 'The Time Machine' (Penguin, 2005 [1895])

MP Shiel, 'The Purple Cloud' (Penguin, 2012 [1901])

John Christopher, 'The Death of Grass' (Penguin, 2009 [1956])

Nevil Shute, 'On the Beach' (Vintage, 2009 [1957])

JG Ballard, 'The Drowned World' (Fourth Estate, 2014 [1962])

Anna Kavan, 'Ice' (Penguin, 2017 [1967])

PD James, 'The Children of Men' (Faber, 2008 [1995])

Margaret Atwood, 'Oryx and Crake' (Virago, 2009 [2003])

Cormac McCarthy, 'The Road' (Picador, 2006).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus lecture (3 x 1 hour) plus 2 x one-to-one consultations

Private study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contribution to Seminars
- Feedback on unassessed assignment

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Students must also complete a 1700 word unassessed assignment. This does not form part of the assessment for this module, but is a requirement and MUST be submitted. Students who fail to submit the unassessed essay will be awarded a maximum mark of 40 for the module (a bare Pass).

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:24:14


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