Issue 1
About EUSP

Issue 1

Introduction. Saying and Picturing the End of the World

The idea of the end of the world has an air of banality. Aren’t we drifting along a neverending flow of sci-fi books and catastrophe films with whirls of special effects, in which the world ends in a sea of flames, in nuclear radiation, in a technological Armaggedon?—Drifted along by, but not drowned, for don’t we also trust that the world is actually not at its end but only purified, reduced to another nuclear family who will start out a better world that is actually more pure and honest than our rotten civilization. Nothing really distinguishes these stories from the ancient myths of Utnapishtim, Noah, or Deucalion and Pyrrha. The point is really to tell a reassuring story of hope of a better future.

Maybe it is in reaction to this imagery (and not by poltroonery) that many philosophers today tend to reject the thought of the end of the world. After all, philosophy has spent much effort to settle its affairs with a teleological notion of the end that was important in the middle of the twentieth century (the important debates on the end of history, the end of man, the end of philosophy, etc). But in reality, the problem of the end of the world is not the same as the problem of the the telos of time and human endeavors: The question of the world’s end does not boil down to the question of meaning but it refers to the thought of the possibility of the impossibility of the world itself, in which meaning can take place or not. The width of the world is illuminated by the thought of its end, which actually shows how the world is made, and along what lines and fractures it can therefore be unmade.

Whatever the position of philosophers, modern and contemporary film and literature have dug into the notion of the end of the world in many ways. Instead of just telling new stories with old means, a number of works have problematized the means that are capable of seizing the subject, asking how the idea of the end affects writing and imaging themselves. In this dossier we have brought together three texts that study the figure of end of the world, not as a subject, but as artistic means in literature and film. The examination of the end of the world in singular works lets us follow the workings of the end much more closely than any philosophical generalities.