Writing Catastrophe, Reading Catastrophe
Western culture has long been in love with catastrophe. Truth itself is understood as something
transcendent, or something hidden: our very notion of interpretation is determined, in other
words, by an apocalyptic logic. The very strategies for reading in the West, or what we might call
hermeneutics, is a form of catastrophe theory.
It is possible, then, that all literature depends on catastrophe; that catastrophe is intrinsic to
literature itself. This course returns to some of the West’s most significant literary texts; read
in the light of contemporary works in philosophy and critical theory, these texts form a kind of
history of the catastrophic. Along the way a dialogue will emerge between literature and theory:
one that will allow us to construct a typology of catastrophe in the West.
Throughout the semester various contemporary disasters, both natural and unnatural, from the
2004 tsunami to 9/11, will figure as recurrent motifs and contemporary points of reference.