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A History of Catastrophe

ENGL 495.660

Recently, tales of catastrophe seem to everywhere—in futuristic fears about climate change, pandemics, asteroid impacts, economic collapse, supervolcanoes, and whatever may come in the year 2010.  Indeed, apocalypse has always been central to the story of mankind, and mass extinctions have shaped the history of our planet long before our arrival.  From an anthropocentric viewpoint, catastrophes may not be all bad; we would not exist if some disaster had not killed the dinosaurs.  In this interdisciplinary course, we will examine catastrophe from multiple perspectives:  looking at theories in mathematics and science that model non-gradualist change as well as exploring historical, literary, and religious texts that describe or predict apocalyptic events.

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