Infrastructures of Apocalypse

American Literature and the Nuclear Complex

2020
Author:

Jessica Hurley

Infrastructures of Apocalypse

A new approach to the vast nuclear infrastructure and the apocalypses it produces, focusing on Black, queer, Indigenous, and Asian American literatures

Exchanging the usual white, male “nuclear canon” for authors that include James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ruth Ozeki, Infrastructures of Apocalypse delivers a fresh literary history of post-1945 America that focuses on apocalypse from below. Here Hurley critiques the racialized urban spaces of civil defense and reads nuclear waste as a colonial weapon.

Infrastructures of Apocalypse is a wonderfully rich and first-rate account of the ways in which American literature records and critiques the material impact of the nuclear age. Jessica Hurley's focus on the infrastructure of the nuclear state, rather than on the possibility of totalizing destruction, enables a new understanding of post-45 American culture.

Daniel Grausam, author of On Endings: American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War

Since 1945, America has spent more resources on nuclear technology than any other national project. Although it requires a massive infrastructure that touches society on myriad levels, nuclear technology has typically been discussed in a limited, top-down fashion that clusters around powerful men. In Infrastructures of Apocalypse, Jessica Hurley turns this conventional wisdom on its head, offering a new approach that focuses on neglected authors and Black, queer, Indigenous, and Asian American perspectives.

Exchanging the usual white, male “nuclear canon” for authors that include James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ruth Ozeki, Infrastructures of Apocalypse delivers a fresh literary history of post-1945 America that focuses on apocalypse from below. Here Hurley critiques the racialized urban spaces of civil defense and reads nuclear waste as a colonial weapon. Uniting these diverse lines of inquiry is Hurley’s belief that apocalyptic thinking is not the opposite of engagement but rather a productive way of imagining radically new forms of engagement.

Infrastructures of Apocalypse offers futurelessness as a place from which we can construct a livable world. It fills a blind spot in scholarship on American literature of the nuclear age, while also offering provocative, surprising new readings of such well-known works as Atlas Shrugged, Infinite Jest, and Angels in America. Infrastructures of Apocalypse is a revelation for readers interested in nuclear issues, decolonial literature, speculative fiction, and American studies.
Infrastructures of Apocalypse

Jessica Hurley is assistant professor of English at George Mason University.

Infrastructures of Apocalypse

Infrastructures of Apocalypse is a wonderfully rich and first-rate account of the ways in which American literature records and critiques the material impact of the nuclear age. Jessica Hurley's focus on the infrastructure of the nuclear state, rather than on the possibility of totalizing destruction, enables a new understanding of post-45 American culture.

Daniel Grausam, author of On Endings: American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War

Infrastructures of Apocalypse is an extraordinary book. It demonstrates how postwar American literature documents the ways that nuclear technology becomes national infrastructure, with consequences for how we can understand the distribution of risk and resource in the period. Jessica Hurley’s innovative readings and keen narrative sensibility render infrastructural relations at their most paradoxical and most political. This is an urgent and timely account of how our self-made apocalypses are entangled with long historical processes and what their alternate futures may comprise.

Kate Marshall, author of Corridor: Media Architectures in American Fiction

Infrastructures of Apocalypse

Contents

Introduction: End Times

1. White Sovereignty and the Nuclear State

2. Civil Defense and Black Apocalypse

3. Star Wars, AIDS, and Queer Endings

4. Nuclear Waste, Native America, Narrative Form

Coda: Nuclear Entanglements

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index