Cover image for After the end : representations of post-apocalypse
After the end : representations of post-apocalypse
Berger, James, 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xx, 278 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E169.12 .B388 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Apocalyptic thought is hardly unique to the end of the twentieth century; it's been a fixture of American culture for decades. Currently, the media are rife with omens and signs, and we're bombarded with warnings that "the end is near." But as James Berger argues here, the end never comes. There is always something left.

In this study of the cultural pursuit of the end and what follows, Berger contends that every apocalyptic depiction leaves something behind, some mixture of paradise and wasteland. Combining literary, psychoanalytic, and historical methods, Berger mines these depictions for their weight and influence on current culture. He applies wide-ranging evidence -- from science fiction to Holocaust literature, from Thomas Pynchon to talk shows, from American politics to the fiction of Toni Morrison -- to reveal how representations of apocalyptic endings are indelibly marked by catastrophic histories.

These post-apocalyptic visions reveal as much about our perception of the past as theydo about conceptions of the future. Berger examines the role of such historical crises as slavery, the Holocaust, and the Vietnam War and describes how these traumas continue to generate cultural symptoms. The shadow of impending apocalypse darkens today's vision of the future, but it's a familiar shadow: traumas we have already experienced as a culture are recycled into visions of new endings. Our "endings" are already after the end.

Berger demonstrates that post-apocalyptic representations are both symptoms and therapies. Contemporary culture continually draws on these traumatic histories, trying to forget, remember, deny, and recover. After the End puts these visions in context, revealingthem in some cases as dangerous evasions, in others as crucial tools for cultural survival.