"The Apocalyptic Century"

By Teichmann, Sandra Gail | Utopian Studies, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

"The Apocalyptic Century"


Teichmann, Sandra Gail, Utopian Studies


Elinor Fuchs, ed. "The Apocalyptic Century."

A special issue of Theater. 29.3. $10.00.

WITH THE APPROACH of the end of the 20th Century, Theater invited Elinor Fuchs, adjunct professor of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at Yale School of Drama, to edit a special issue devoted to a look at apocalyptic imagery in modern theater. In the introductory essay, "The Apocalyptic Century," Fuchs lays out the history of theatrical occupation with a mythical final catastrophe, an event that promises to result in no future. Fuchs selects works from Ibsen, Oskar Panizza, Strindberg, Alfred Jarry, Chekhov, Hauptmann, Beckett, Karl Kraus, Artaud, Adriene Kennedy, Rachel Rosenthal, Tony Kushner, Jose Rivera, and others to illustrate examples of dramatic attention given to the dystopic end of the infinity/end--harmony/chaos--hope/despair continuums.

Contributions to the issue include Daniel Gerould's "The Apocalyptic Mode and The Terror of History: Turn-of-the-Century Russian and Polish Millenarian Drama," Gabrielle Cody's "End Worlds without Ends in Beckett and Duras," Linda Dorff's "Babylon Now: Tennessee Williams's Apocalypses," Sylvere Lotringer's "Burning for Judgment Day," and Matthew Wilson Smith's "Angels in America."

The issue is illustrated with most appropriate black and white reproductions of coming doom, many with which we are familiar, many we will not forget. In Douglas Langworthy's translation of an excerpt from Karl Kraus's "The Last Night Epilogue to The Last Days of Mankind," the suggestion is that these horrors of our imaginations as well as those of our experience will not be escaped even in death.

Apocalyptic thoughts and images, as seen through Theater's special issue, have often been associated with the end of the 20th Century. A coming final destruction of our world has preoccupied us in our human existence, and various possibilities have been played out on our stages throughout history. Yet our steps into the future have not as yet resulted in a catastrophic end. There are, however, new horizons toward which some are looking for that elusive end of the world. …

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