After the first month of class I can confidently say I have learned a lot about the word “apocalypse.” From what started on the first day of class as our personal understanding of the term, to working through Andrew Santana Kaplan’s article “Notes Towards (Inhibiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Thought”, and then Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, and the first two books of Percival Everett’s American Desert I have been able to expand on my previous knowledge. No, an apocalypse is not necessarily, as Isaac described it, a “desaturated world” but a much deeper word that can be used in a number of contexts. Here, I will be trying to explore my own ideas while working through the class text thus far.
Before taking this class I was guilty of the single lens “zombie apocalypse” definition of apocalypse. I thought that the term was only applicable to the show The Walking Dead or video games that my twin brother played in middle school. I was privileged enough to grow up in an area where using the word in any other context would have gone right over my head. Last spring, when I was signing up for classes I was looking for a 300 level class that sounded interesting and fit my practice schedule. This one fit, I was intrigued by the title, and found comfort in the Toni Morrison part of the class description. Honestly, this is my first upper level English class and I was terrified. I didn’t really know how the words “black” and “apocalyptic” related to fiction but I was willing to find out.
Starting off with by far the most difficult piece I have read, the Santana Kaplan article. I was nervous for this paper because I was afraid that I still would not grasp the concepts even after a second read. Fortunately, I did understand more; going back to it post Wild Seed I was able to apply it to the book and work through Doro to understand some of the main points of “Notes Towards (Inhibiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Thought.” I think that the main idea of Santana Kaplan is that in order to end racism the current state of the world must be completely demolished. Racism is rooted in the structure of our society. In the Bible Paul calls for the messiah to come for the final judgment and destroy the world of sin. Similarly, for this ever present anti-blackness to end we need to forget everything we know and rewrite society. The only way this can happen is through a tragic event that will forcibly end our world.
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler helped me to deepen my understanding of the word “apocalypse.” Shifting from the definition of the world from Santana Kaplan’s piece, Wild Seed is a good way to apply the framework previously presented. The story emphasizes that an end to injustice calls for an end of the world as we know it. By having Doro and Anyanwu live for so long, Butler is able to use their characters to show how the world has changed and why it needs to end. Doro adjusted to the new world in a sort of bad faith whereas Anyanwu adjusted using good faith practices. Doro consistently kills for both himself and pleasure. He manipulates others for personal gain. In the beginning of book one, he thinks that he tricks Anyanwu into following him into one of his own breeding communities. Doro has seen the world go through a lot and has shifted his body and morals to remain in power. In terms of “Notes Towards (Inhibiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Thought” Doro is a katechon: In order for Doro’s inhuman actions to end, he needs to die. A small-scale apocalypse within his breeding communities and other establishments. Anyanwu also changes who she is in order to fit into the cruel, ever changing world. She seems to do so as honestly as she can, demonstrating good faith. I think that she shows readers how to educate themselves in order to move forward even in a world similar to Doro’s.
Moving on, Percival Everett’s American Desert again helped me apply the apocalyptic thinking presented by Santna Kaplan. Ted was living a pretty average American lifestyle before he attempted to die by suicide. He was an English professor with a wife and two kids. On his way to do so he was hit by a UPS truck and decapitated. Ted was miraculously given a second chance at life; he comes back to fix all of the damage of his past and challenge cult leaders. He had an affair with a student which ultimately led to his downfall. On the third day after his death at his funeral he sits up, gets out of his coffin and comes back to life. The whole scene is a satirical spin on the biblical story of Jesus’ death and resurrection .In the bible Jesus comes back to earth to save people from sin and it seems that Ted is going to try to do the same with Big Daddy’s cult. As seen in both the Barbie Becker scene and the Cynthia part it is clear that Ted can see the truth in people. He can see the lies that Barbie told her husband and Cynthia’s past life pre Big Daddy. Returning to “apocalypse,” I think Ted represents the messianic apocalypse that Paul talks about. Ted has come back to save the world from sin and lies. In this case, as far as books one and two, I think that Big Daddy and other leaders act as the katechon. Big Daddy uses Christinaity to guilt people into his structured society where he controls and oppresses people through fear.
Going forward, with the remainder of this class I want to try and learn more about apocalyptic thinking and how it can be applied to literature and the world around me. I have a better understanding of the term as far as class but I think I want to try and learn about it in a real life situation and see how my thought process has changed since the end of August. I am excited to keep reading and working in the class and see how it applies to “Notes Towards (Inhibiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Thought.”