What is “The Apocalypse”?

Marisa Greaney


26 September 2022

Essay 1

When initially registering for classes this semester, I looked over the list of English courses almost constantly.  I had narrowed down the seemingly endless list of choices to only two or three.  After mulling it over and experimenting with other configurations for my schedule, I had ultimately picked the one I wanted to take based on the name, ‘Black Apocalyptic Fiction’ seemed to stand out the most, and my excitement for the upcoming semester only grew.  In the summer leading up to the current semester, there was many conversations among friends and coworkers as to what is in store for us in the near future.  While some had chosen not to pursue a higher education, most of us had discussed the classes we are going to take in the upcoming semester.   

When having these discussions, the mention of the course name ‘Black Apocalyptic Fiction’ was not only mentioned quite a few times but had also piqued the interest of some of my friends and coworkers.  Most had similar reactions such as mentioning how interesting that sounds or why can’t their school offer such interesting courses and my college is so boring.  Many asked what the course materials are or what is being read in the class, and I could only answer with a simple “I’m not too sure” or “if I’m honest I cannot really tell you”.  While thinking about it one night after a long day at work, I had thought to myself “what does this course have in store?”.  While thinking to myself, I thought of what most people would think of as ‘The Apocalypse’ and concluded it to be some sort of devastating event that could be seen as the end of humanity and even life itself on our planet.  During this, my mind started to race as to what kind of apocalyptic stories we could be reading throughout the semester, my mind instantly wondered to the many, many apocalyptic medias I’ve consumed throughout my lifetime, my excitement for this course only growing. 

When the course content was released to us on a Thursday in July, I was on a field trip for the summer camp I worked at.  This could not have come at a better time, since this was the longest trip of the camp season, and we were on the bus back home.  I had thought that now was the perfect time to review the course materials.  While initially reading through, I did not gather all the information about what the ‘apocalypse’ part of this course was, as I was more interested in reading the grading policy and the assignment list before tuning my attention back into the bus full of campers I was supposed to be monitoring.  That had been the first and only time I went through the course materials before the start of the new semester.   

            My first introduction with the ‘apocalypse’ that we are to become familiar with throughout the semester was within the Andrew Santana Kaplan article Notes Toward (Inhabiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought. Santana Kaplan explains in his work that the meaning of apocalypse is the end of worlds, similarly to what we think of when we hear the word.  Although he expands on this idea and goes further to define the concept as that, the ending of a world, but alongside the revelation of errors within said world.  In simpler terms, Andre Santana Kaplan describes the apocalypse as the ending of a world, while also realizing the mistakes the world, or the person or people inhabiting that world, has made to get to this apocalyptic point.  The term ‘world’ in these definitions does not necessarily mean the planet in which we are living or the setting in which a story takes place in a work of fiction, it instead means a personal world, something akin to moving to a new place and leaving your old world behind. 

Within Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, we see not only one, but two examples of this definition of apocalypse.  The novel includes the ends of two separate worlds, one being that of Doro, and the other being that of Anyanwu.  Towards the end of the novel, Doro has the revelation that the way he has been living his extremely long life, had been harmful to those around him such as his children.  In this realization Doro’s own personal world starts to change not only by itself but with his own effort if he wants to keep Anyanwu in his life.  On the other hand, the personal world of Anyanwu ended with the meeting of Doro, who showed her many things and ultimately changed how she would continue to live her immortal life. 

            Based off both the novel and the Santana Kaplan Article, we can gather that there is more than one definition for ‘the apocalypse’.  In your typical media consumed by the masses, the apocalypse or an apocalyptic event is one of extreme world ending abilities and the definition of the word that I speculate that we would be using throughout the remainder of the “Black Apocalyptic Fiction” course is the one that was explained in the words of Andrew Santana Kaplan, and given to us in Butlers Wild Seed as an example.  Another example of Santana Kaplans definition of the apocalypse is present in Percival Everett’s novel American Desert, where the life of an ordinary man is ended (quite literally) and his world changes from the one he used to know, to this new and unfamiliar one after his strange resurrection from the dead.   

            Based off the events of American Desert, the events of Wild Seed and the content of Andrew Santana Kaplan’s article, one can speculate that the upcoming course content would contain the ending of one’s personal world.  Something I have come to expect based on what has been discussed and reviewed for class is a further understanding of a personal apocalypse, as I have some to call it.  Another thing I am looking for in this course is trying to figure out what constitutes a personal apocalypse other than just a personal world ending revelation, or a fated event that was shown to us in Butler’s Wild Seed and Everett’s American Desert. 

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