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The Future as Catastrophe


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Table of Contents

1. Last Men
2. Catastrophe Without Event: Imagining Climate Disaster
3. Survival: The Biopolitics of Catastrophe
4. The Future of Things: Accidents and Technical Safety
5. The Paradoxes of Prediction

About the Author

Eva Horn is professor of German literature and cultural history at the University of Vienna. She is the author of The Secret War: Treason, Espionage, and Modern Fiction (2013).


The end of the world and the extinction of the human species will be a catastrophe without event, survivor, or witness. Eva Horn's brilliant and copiously informed historical study explores the potential of 'future fictions' as epistemic tools to anticipate the unknowable-to imagine it by giving it shape, investing it with meaning and affect and thereby making it 'real.' -- Aleida Assmann, author of Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives
Who would ever have imagined that a book about catastrophes could be informative, entertaining, and helpful? In this magnificent volume, Eva Horn has achieved this trifecta. As a bonus, the book is erudite and paints a picture of thinking about disaster as a strident criticism of modernity's blind faith in human progress. Read it! -- John Casti, author of X-Events: Complexity Overload and the Collapse of Everything
'Why do we imagine ourselves as Last Men ?' Eva Horn's imaginative, incisive, and wide-ranging exploration of this arresting question doubles up an arresting genealogy of the modern fear of the future as catastrophe. An illuminating read, not only for students of modernity but also those pondering the looming crisis of climate change. -- Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth
Tacking between the fictional and the real, Horn provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of why we are such avid consumers of dystopian disasters and what these not-so-artificial scenarios mean for our ability to contend with these portentous events. The Future as Catastrophe examines the content, sources, history, and function that the catastrophic has for politics, knowledge, and the human capacity to imagine its own destruction. -- Anson Rabinbach, author of In the Shadow of Catastrophe: German Intellectuals Between Apocalypse and Enlightenment
With the notion of the 'Anthropocene,' we have learned to think, in an entirely secular and scientific way, the end times of human life on the planet. With breathtaking erudition and in stunning and precise prose, Eva Horn guides us through the ways in which the natural and social sciences, economic and political theory, and above all literature and popular culture, have, over the last two centuries, sought to rehearse scenarios of the end and its aftermath. As Horn also shows, the future perfect tense of catastrophe-all this will have been-serves as a remarkable diagnostic lens for the revelation-the 'apocalypse'-of the present tense of catastrophic ways of living. -- Eric L. Santner, author of The Royal Remains: The People's Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty
The Future as Catastrophe is theoretically rich and its arguments are bolstered by the sheer breadth of
texts with which it engages...a valuable contribution to environmental studies. -- Jason Ludwig, Cornell University * H-Environment *

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