Catastrophes highlight, in the starkest and most fascinating way, humanity’s difficult and potentially disastrous relationship to the world’s energy resources. Be it an oil spill (Gulf), a hurricane (Katrina), or a nuclear catastrophe (Fukushima) these global events demand an affective and intellectual response. Often, the study of these responses is confined to the immediately local and political. While these aspects are undoubtedly important, such an approach often neglects both a) the theoretical assumptions that need to be in place to categorise something as a “catastrophe” and b) how certain aesthetic responses, aesthetics in particular, offer alternative ways of representing and thinking through these assumptions. This cluster wants to address this neglect and help to close the resulting gap without falling into the naïve assumption that aesthetics somehow can “fix” catastrophes.

Catastrophes come in many forms: human, natural, direct, indirect, personal, national, global. The research cluster will develop and cover many of these and wants to bring some clarity into this rather complicated field. In order to do so, we will focus on two aspects of catastrophe in particular, which are geared towards our particular focus on energy: first, we want to provide a critical analysis of one of the most pervasive and influential ways of classifying catastrophes since the Enlightenment, namely the distinction between “natural catastrophes” on the one hand, and “human catastrophes” on the other. Secondly, we will want to deal with the aesthetic responses that reject this classification into “natural” vs “human” and discuss examples of the theoretical and practical consequences of such a rejection. Here we will focus particularly on works that attempt to re-think the link between aesthetics traditionally understood in relation to new accounts of the anthropocene and anthropotechnics.

The Aesthetic:

Our particular case study will focus on the response in the field of aesthetics, again in its modern incarnation and with a particular focus on energy. Why the aesthetic?

The first answer is simple: because, as a central category in the humanities, aesthetics is a term and praxis that should be part of any serious discussion of the humanities and energy. While it is an area that is already thinking about, in many different forms, about the issues at stake (eco-criticism has been around for a good time, for instance), thinkers on aesthetics have been relatively poor in forming part of the wider conversation. One (conjectural) reason for this is their desire to focus on issues that go beyond the purely thematic when it comes to the study of aesthetics and energy. We hope that the study of “catastrophes”, and its methodological (including formal) stake, promises to resolve that impasse.

The second answer is a little more complicated (and contentious): because the aesthetic formulates a unique response, not only to the question of “catastrophe”, but to the larger issues at stake (both methodological philosophical). The singular status of the aesthetic need not claim a superior understanding or formulation; but it might want to claim (and our cluster will have to bear out whether it does) a type of claim or status that is significantly different to other responses (sociological, anthropological, scientific etc.) without wanting to be insular. Ultimately, we will face the challenge that whether the cross-over between aesthetics, catastrophe, and energy, will help us develop a vocabulary that puts the relevance of these claims into sharp focus when it comes to the question of energy in/and the humanities.

People, Structure, and Objectives:

The cluster on Catastrophes builds on the work that previous (and continuing) members have done. These include Caroline Levander (English), Jack Zammito (History), Jeff Kripal (Religious Studies), Tim Morton (English), Derek Woods (English), Alexander Regier (English) and Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (CENHS). We look forward to continue to make it possible for scholars from many different disciplines to connect through catastrophe.

The members of the cluster regularly meet and exchange their work and research, often with the addition of texts that are specific to a question they have formulated in advance (seminars have included the analysis of literary, religious, sociological, and philosophical texts) as well as meeting with visiting scholars. This year the cluster will host a variety of events and invite a number of scholars from across the globe to visit and present their research in the context of our work on catastrophe. Ultimately, we hope to present the findings of this year’s work as a special issue of a scholarly journal.


For more information about the Catastrophe & Aesthetics cluster, please contact Prof. Alexander Regier (a.regier@rice.edu)


Catastrophe Bibliography

A provisional list of fiction, poetry, film, and non-fiction on the topic of catastrophe or apocalypse.
Compiled by Derek Woods, PhD student in English and predoctoral fellow in CENHS. Many thanks to Brent Bellamy for dozens of additions to the list!

Last updated 22 September 2014.


“Changing Climates.” Theory, Culture, and Society, Special Issue on Climate Change, 2010.

“Deconstruction in the Anthropocene.” Special Issue of Oxford Literary Review, 2012.

“Deconstruction, Environmentalism, and Climate Change. Special Issue of Oxford Literary Review, 2010.

Adrian, Chris. The Children’s Hospital, 2006.

Aldiss, Brian.  Greybeard, 1964.

Aldiss, Brian. Earthworks, 1965.

Aldiss, Brian. The Hothouse, 1961.

Alexander, Marcus. The Oblivion Society, 2007.

Amsterdam, Steven. Things We Didn’t See Coming, 2010.

Anderson, Kevin J. and Doug Beason. Ill Wind, 1995.

Apter, Emily. “Planetary Dysphoria,” 2013.

Aradau, Claudia and Rens Van Munster. Politics of Catastrophe: Genealogies of the Unknown, 2011.

Atwood, Margaret. MaddAddam, 2014.

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake, 2004.

Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood, 2010.

Auster, Paul. In the Country of Last Things, 1987.

Bacigalupi, Paolo.  The Windup Girl, 2009.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker, 2010.

Baker, Will. Shadow Hunter, 1993.

Baker, Will. Star Beast, 1996.

Ballard, J.G.  The Drowned World, 1962.

Ballard, J.G.  The Wind from Nowhere,1961.

Ballard, J.G. The Drought, 1965.

Balmer, Edwin and Phillip Whylie. After Worlds Collide, 1934.

Balmer, Edwin and Phillip Whylie. When Worlds Collide, 1933.

Barnes, John. Directive 51, 2010.

Bartheleme, Donald. “The Balloon,” in Sixty Stories, 1981.

Baucom, Ian. “Postcolonial Studies in an Age of Natural Science,” 2012.

Bear, Greg. Blood Music, 1985.

Berman, Mitch. Time Capsule, 1988.

Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of Disaster, 1980.

Boyett, Steven R. Ariel, 1983.

Boyett, Steven R. Elegy Beach: A Book of the Change, 2009.

Boyett, Steven R. Mortality Bridge, 2011.

Boyle, T.C.  After the Plague, 2001.

Boyle, T.C.  When the Killing’s Done, 2011.

Boyle, T.C. A Friend of the Earth, 2000.

Brackett, Leigh. The Long Tomorrow, 1955.

Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles, 1950.

Bradley, Darin. Noise, 2010.

Brassier, Ray. “Solar Catastrophe: Lyotard, Freud, and the Death Drive,” 2003.

Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, 2007.

Braziel, James Birmingham, 35 Miles, 2008.

Braziel, James. Snakeskin Road, 2009.

Brin, David. The Postman, 1985.

Brinkley, William. The Last Ship, 1988.

Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide, 2003.

Brooks, Max. World War Z, 2007.

Brown, Eric. Guardians of the Phoenix, 2010.

Budz, Mark. Clade, 2003.

Burroughs, William. Nova Express, 1964.

Burton, LeVar. Aftermath, 1997.

Butler, Blake. Scorch Atlas, 2009.

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower, 1993.

Butler, Octavia. Xenogenesis Trilogy, 1987-2000.

Butler, Octavia. Clay’s Ark, 1984.

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Talents, 2001.

Byron, George Gordon. Darkness, 1816.

Carlson, Jeff. Plague War, 2008.

Carlson, Jeff. Plague Year, 2007.

Carlson, Jeff. Plague Zone, 2009.

Charnas, Suzy McKee. Walk to the End of the World, 1974.

Chilson, Rob. The Star-Crowned Kings, 1975.

Christopher, John. The Death of Grass, 1956.

Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End, 1953.

Clee, Mona. Overshoot, 1998.

Cohen, Tom (ed.). Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, 2012.

Colebrook, Claire. “Extinct Theory” in Theory After ‘Theory’, 2011.

Colebrook, Claire. Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1 and 2. 2013

Collins, Paul. The Skyborn, 2005.

Crichton, Michael. State of Fear, 2004.

Critical Art Ensemble. Marching Plague, 2006.

Cronin, Justin. The Passage Trilogy, 2010.

Cronin, Justin. The Twelve, 2012.

Crowley, John. Engine Summer, 1979.

Curry, Alice. Environmental Crisis in Young Adult Fiction: A Poetics of Earth, 2013.

Curtis, Claire. Postapocalyptic Fiction and the Social Contract: We’ll Not Go Home Again, 2010.

Davis, Mike. Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, 1999.

Delaney, Samuel. Dhalgren, 1975.

Delillo, Don. White Noise, 1985

DeNiro, Alan. Total Oblivion, More or Less, 2009.

Derrida, Jacques. “No Apocalypse, Not Now (full speed ahead, seven missiles, seven missives),” 1984.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, 1968.

Dick, Philip K. Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb, 1965.

Dick, Phillip K. The Penultimate Truth, 1964.

Dickson, Gordon R. Wolf and Iron, 1990.

Disch, Thomas. The Genocides, 1965.

Donnelly, Ignatius. Caesar’s Column, 2010.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Poison Belt, 1913.

DuBois, W.E.B. “The Comet,” 1920.

DuPrau, Jeanne.  The Diamond of Darkhold, 2008.

DuPrau, Jeanne. The City of Ember, 2003.

DuPrau, Jeanne. The People of Sparks, 2004.

Dyson, Michael Erik. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, 2006.

Elgin, Suzette Haden. Native Tongue, 1984.

Emmerich, Ronald. 2012, 2009.

Emmerich, Ronald. The Day After Tomorrow, 2004.

Endo, Hiroki. Eden. Vol. 1, It’s an Endless World, 2005.

England, George Allan. Darkness and Dawn, 1914.

Evenson, Brian. Immobility, 2012.

Farber, Herschel. “From the Cold Earth: BP’s Broken Well, Streaming Live,” 2012.

Forman, James D. Doomsday Plus Twelve, 1984.

Forstchen, William R. One Second After, 2009.

Forster, E.M. “The Machine Stops,” 1909.

Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon, 1959.

Frank, Pat. Mr. Adam, 1946.

Gaines, Susan. Carbon Dreams, 2001.

Gayoule, Daniel F. Lords of the Psychon, 1963.

Gee, Maggie. The Flood, 2004.

Gee, Maggie. The Ice People, 1998/2008.

Gischler, Victor. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, 2008.

Goonan, Kathleen.  Light Music, 2002.

Goonan, Kathleen.  Mississippi Blues, 1997.

Goonan, Kathleen. Crescent City Rhapsody, 2000.

Goonan, Kathleen. Queen City Jazz, 1994.

Gordillo, Gaston. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction, 2014.

Grant, Calum and Joshua Atesh Litle. Ever Since the World Ended, 2001.

Hall, Sarah. The Carhullan Army, 2008.

Haneke, Michael. Time of the Wolf, 2003.

Hannigan, John. Disasters without Borders: The International Politics of Natural Disasters, 2012.

Harrison, Mark. The Afterblight Chronicles: America, 2011.

Harry, Eric L. Arc Light, 1996.

Hart, Marcus Alexander. The Oblivion Society Edition 2.0, 2007.

Hauge, Lesley. Nomansland, 2012.

Heinlein, Robert A. Farnham’s Freehold, 1964.

Heller, Peter. The Dog Stars, 2012.

Herbert, Frank. The White Plague, 1982.

Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker, 1980.

Hodgins, Jack. The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, 1998.

Howey, Hugh. Wool, 2013.

Huet, Marie-Hélène. The Culture of Disaster, 2012.

Jeffries, Richard. After London, 1885.

Jensen, Derrick. Endgame, 2006.

Jensen, Liz. The Rapture, 2009.

Judson, Theodore. Fitzpatrick’s War, 2004.

Juengel, Scott. “The Early Novel and Catastrophe,” 2009.

Kadohata, Cynthia. In the Heart of the Valley of Love, 1992.

Kane, Gil. Blackmark, 1971.

Kane, Paul. Arrowhead, 2008.

Kaye, Marilyn. The Convergence, 1998.

Kaye, Marilyn. The Return, 1999.

Kaye, Marilyn. The Vanishing, 1998.

King, Stephen. The Stand, 1978.

Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior, 2012.

Knight, Christopher and Johnathan Rand. Pandemia. Topinabee Island, 2006.

Kollin Dani & Eytan Kollin. The Unincorporated Man, 2009.

Kunetka, James and Whitley Strieber. Warday, 1984.

Kunstler, James Howard. World Made By Hand, 2008.

Kunstler, James. The Witch of Hebron, 2011.

La Tourette, Aileen. Cry Wolf, 1986.

LaHaye, Tim & Jerry B. Jenkins. Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, 1995.

Lanier, Sterling, E. Hiero’s Journey, 1983.

Last, Angela. “Negotiating the Inhuman: Bakhtin, Materiality, and the Instrumentalization of Climate Change,” 2013.

Lawrence, Louise. Children of the Dust, 1985.

Le Guin, Ursula. Always Coming Home, 1985.

Leiber, Fritz. The Black Gondolier, 2000.

LeMenager, Stephanie. “The Aesthetics of Petroleum, after Oil!” 2012.

Lessing, Doris. Mara and Dann, 1999.

Lessing, Doris. The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog, 2005.

Lethem, Jonathan. Amnesia Moon, 1995.

Lilley, Sasha et. al. Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, 2012.

London, Jack. The Iron Heel, 1908.

London, Jack. The Scarlet Plague, 1912.

Lovelock, James. The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How we Can Still Save Humanity, 2006.

Malamud, Bernard. God’s Grace, 1983.

Marker, Chris. La Jetée, 1962.

Martin, Graham Dunstan. Time-Slip, 1986.

Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend, 1954.

Mayhar, Ardath. The World Ends in Hickory Hollow, 2007.

McCammon, Robert R. Swan Song, 1987.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road, 2006.

McDevitt, Jack. Eternity Road, 1997.

McEwan, Ian. Solar, 2010.

McGurl, Mark. “Zombie Renaissance: Eating Your Brains,” 2013.

McIntosh, Will. Soft Apocalypse, 2011.

McKibben, Bill (ed.). I‘m with the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet, 2011.

Merrill, James. The Changing Light at Sandover, 1982.

Miller Jr., Walter. A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1960.

Miller Jr., Walter. Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, 1997.

Miller, George. Mad Max, 1979.

Morrow, James. This is the Way the World Ends, 1985.

Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects, 2013.

Niven, Larry and Jerry Pournelle. Lucifer’s Hammer, 1985.

Niven, Larry and Jerry Pournelle. Lucifer’s Hammer, 1977.

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, 2011.

Ochse, Weston. Blood Ocean, 2012.

Ozeki, Ruth. All Over Creation, 2004.

Paik, Peter Y. From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe, 2010.

Palmer, David R. Emergence, 1984.

Parenti, Christian. Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, 2011. 

Paulson, Gary. The Transall Saga, 1988.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It, 2006.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. The Dead and the Gone, 2008.

Piercy, Marge. He, She, and It, 1991.

Pixar Studios. Wall-E, 2008.

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” 1839.

Pohl, Fredrik and Jack Williamson. Land’s End, 1988.

Prochnau, William. Trinity’s Child, 1983.

Pynchon, Thomas. “Entropy,” 1960.

Rangel, Cecelia Enjuto. Cities in Ruins: The Politics of Modern Poetics, 2010.

Redfield, Marc. “Wordsworth’s Dream of  Extinction,” 2013.

Rich, Nathaniel. The Odds Against Tomorrow, 2013.

Ringo, John. The Last Centurion, 2008.

Robinson, Frank. The Glass Inferno, 1975.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. California Trilogy, 1984-1990.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. Capital Trilogy, 2004-2007.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. Mars Trilogy, 1993-9.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Wild Shore, 1984.

Robinson, Kim Stanley. Years of Rice and Salt, 2002.

Ross, Andrew. Strange Weather, 1991.

Sagan, Nick. Edenborn, 2004.

Sagan, Nick. Everfree, 2006.

Sagan, Nick. Idlewild, 2003.

Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew, “Disaster Movies and the ‘Peak Oil’ Movement: Does Popular Culture Encourage Eco-Apocalyptic Beliefs in the U.S.?”, 2013.

Serviss, Garrett P. The Second Deluge, 1912.

Sharpe, Matthew. Jamestown, 2007.

Shaviro, Steven. Melancholia; or, the Romantic Anti-Sublime, 2012.

Sheckley, Robert. Journey Beyond Tomorrow,1962.

Shelley, Mary. The Last Man, 1826.

Shelley, Percy Byshe. The Triumph of Life, 1824.

Shiel, M.P. The Purple Cloud, 1901.

Shute, Nevil. On the Beach, 1957.

Silverberg, Robert. At Winter’s End, 1988.

Sinha, Indra. Animal’s People, 2007.

Slatery, Brian Francis. Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America, 2008.

Sloterdijk, Peter. A Critique of Cynical Reason, 1983.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Neither Sun Nor Death, 2011.

Sloterdijk, Peter. You Must Change Your Life, 2009.

Spinrad, Norman. The Iron Dream, 1972.

Starhawk. The Fifth Sacred Thing, 1993.

Stewart, George. Earth Abides, 1949.

Stiegler, Bernard. Technics and Time I, 1998.

Sussman, Henry (ed.). Impasses of the Post-Global: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, 2012.

Tellman, Ute. “Catastrophic Populations and the Fear of the Future: Malthus and the Genealogy of Liberal Economy,” 2013.

Tepper, Sheri S. The Gate to Women’s Country, 1988.

Thacker, Eugene.  “Notes on Extinction and Existence,” 2012.

Thacker, Eugene. In the Dust of this Planet, 2012.

Tucker, Wilson A. The Long Loud Silence, 1952.

Tuomainen, Antti. The Healer, 2013.

Von Trier, Lars. Melancholia, 2011.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Galápagos, 1985.

Ward, Peter. The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?, 2009.

Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us, 2007.

Wells, H.G. The War of the Worlds, 1898.

Wells, H.G. The World Set Free: A Story of Mankind, 1914.

Wesley, Rawles, James. FoundersA Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse, 2012.

Wesley, Rawles, James. Survivors: A novel of the Coming Collapse, 2011.

Wesley, Rawles, James. Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse, 2009.

White, Lynn. “The Historic Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” in The Ecocriticism Reader,

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One, 2011.

Wilhelm, Kate. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, 1976.

Williams, Paul O. The Fall of the Shell, 1982.

Williams, Walter John. The Rift, 1999.

Williamson, Jack. Terraforming Earth, 2001.

Wilson, Robert Charles. Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, 2009.

Winters, Ben. The Last Policeman, 2013.

Wohmann, Gabrielle, Sound of the Flute, 1987.

Wolf, Christa. Accident: A Day’s News, 1987.

Wolf, Gene. The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, 1980.

Woodland, Malcolm. Wallace Stevens and the Apocalyptic Mode, 2005.

Woodward, Ashley. “The End of Time,” Parrhesia 15, 2012.

Wren, M. K. A Gift Upon the Shore, 1990.

Wyndham, John. The Day of the Triffids, 1951.

Zizek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times, 2011.