Image by Elyse Chia

Apocalyptic Worlds

In this three week unit, we will consider apocalyptic worlds.


Week 9:  The Road

October 19 through 25

This week we will be watching the movie The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Directed by John Hillcoat 2009.  

These are some of the questions you can consider using in your blog/vlog response. 

  • Why do you think Cormac McCarthy McCarthy has chosen not to give his characters names? How do the generic labels of "the man" and "the boy" affect the way in which readers relate to them?

  • How is Cormac McCarthy McCarthy able to make the post-apocalyptic world of The Road seem so real and utterly terrifying? Which descriptive passages are especially vivid and visceral in their depiction of this blasted landscape? What do you find to be the most horrifying features of this world and the survivors who inhabit it?

  • Cormac McCarthy doesn't make explicit what kind of catastrophe has ruined the earth and destroyed human civilization, but what might be suggested by the many descriptions of a scorched landscape covered in ash? What is implied by the father's statement that, "On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world," [p. 32]?

  • As the father is dying, he tells his son he must go on in order to "carry the fire." When the boy asks if the fire is real, the father says, "It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it" [p. 279]. What is this fire? Why is it so crucial that they not let it die?

  • Cormac McCarthy envisions a post-apocalyptic world in which "murder was everywhere upon the land" and the earth would soon be "largely populated by men who would eat your children in front of your eyes" [p. 181]. How difficult or easy is it to imagine Cormac McCarthy's nightmare vision actually happening? Do you think people would likely behave as they do in the novel, under the same circumstances? Does it now seem that human civilization is headed toward such an end?

  • The man and the boy think of themselves as the "good guys." In what ways are they like and unlike the "bad guys" they encounter? What do you think Cormac McCarthy is suggesting in the scenes in which the boy begs his father to be merciful to the strangers they encounter on the road? How is the boy able to retain his compassion—to be, as one reviewer put it, "compassion incarnate"?


Blog/Vlog due by Friday at midnight

You could choose to do a microtheme on this material.  It would be due by November 155 by midnight.

Midterm due by Sunday, October 25 by midnight

At mid-term each of you will create a 6-minute video that considers the intersection between technology and science fiction.  This video should analyze what ethical issues are addressed in two of the course narratives.  You should be able to think of possible directions for this video through the Microtheme Essays and the daily blog/vlog postings.

Week 10:  The Book of Eli

October 26 through November 1

This week we will be watching the movie The Book of Eli.  

Here are some questions to consider in your response: 

  • Blindness is a huge theme within the story, both through characters and plot. How is blindness used in The Book of Eli?  What is Eli blindness a symbol of? 

  • How the post-apocalyptic world The Book of Eli realistic? What is not realistic about it? What are some of the ways that we see the screenwriters and directors depicting the post-apolyptic world and how are they make the visualization real

  • Religion and the Bible is crucial to the story. How does religion work with The Book of Eli? Can you think of any bible verses that relate to this material? 

  • How is the title used to bring about a discussion of the religion/the bible?  Is the title literal or does it stand for something else?

  • What is the relationship between Eli and Solara? How does their journey work together?  Can you think of any other pairings that work the same way?  Try thinking of biblical characters or other characters on journeys.

Or you could look at The Book of Eli and The Road  

  • The apocalyptic theme works throughout both of these materials.  How are these two pieces similar? What makes them different? 

  • The journey of the characters are a huge part of these two works. What do the characters “carry” with them?  What is their job or quest?  Are they successful?

  • Discuss the idea of the salvation of humanity.  What will save humanity in these two movies? Can humanity be saved?  Is it worth saving?

You can respond to any of these questions or others that you have this week. 


Blog/Vlog due by Friday at midnight

You could choose to do a microtheme on this material.  It would be due by November 15 by midnight.

Week 11: The Curse

November 2 through 8

"The Curse" is a short story by Arthur C. Clarke which was first published in 1953. The story describes the state of a dead small town some days after a nuclear bomb was dropped on it. It is completely descriptive - no humans, animals, or dialogs - and of course the mood is sad & nostalgic.

The town involved is Stratford-upon-Avon, apparently, a well-known city in England, located on the banks of river Avon. The town is both the birthplace of William Shakespeare and where his grave is located. Both the grave and the river make an appearance towards the end of the story.

  • How does this story relate to The Book of Eli?

  • How does the town Stratford-upon-Avon become destroyed? Why this method? How does this relate historically?

  • What type of imagery does Clarke use in this story? How does it help the reader to understand the ideas?

  • What is the importance of William Shakespeare’s grave and The River Avon in this story? What would make Clarke set the story here?


Blog/Vlog due by Friday at midnight

You could choose to do a microtheme on this material.  It would be due by November 15 by midnight.

September 14 through 20

This week we will be reading the novella Anthem by Ayn Rand. If The Hunger Games is capitalism that has gone wrong you might say that Anthem is socialism gone wrong.  Both of these dystopian worlds show the breakdown of society.  They do it in very different ways. One way you can consider the difference between the two lies in the effect of the use of the word “we,” and why is it important that the last chapter is the only place where the word “I” exists in Anthem.  Another interesting idea is that The Hunger Games is set in the future. Anthem does not have a set time. Why do these two narratives diverge in this aspect?  These are some ideas you can address in your work this week. 


Blog/Vlog due by Friday at midnight

You could choose to do a microtheme on this material.  It would be due by October 11 by midnight.

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