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Apocalypse and Transformation

"Apocalypse and Transformation" Colloquium

About the Topic

When Al Gore recently accepted the Nobel peace Prize, he represented himself as a prophet for our age: “Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be.”  Sharing his own vision of coming climate change, Gore called for actions that will prevent calamity by transforming our relationships to one another and to the planet.  In a world faced with the potentially disastrous consequences of global warming, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the threat of new and continuing global conflicts in the domains of religion, politics, and economics, talk of “apocalypse” has become widespread, even among those who know little of its religious roots.

The legend of the Phoenix, the story of the mythical bird that dies and rises from its own ashes every five hundred years, suggests that many different traditions share the notion that destruction precedes rebirth.  In the west, the notion of “apocalypse,” derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, has been crucial. “Apocalypse” is a Greek translation of the ancient Hebrew term for unveiling.  In his book of Revelation, St. John reveals his vision of the end times, which will bring forth a new age (eon) in which God will transform all creatures.  In modern secular discourse, apocalypse has come to mean a vision of the future preceded by destruction.   For example, apocalyptic motifs are discernible in G.F.W. Hegel’s profoundly influential theory of history as a dialectical process in which a new stage of development can occur only by both negating and preserving certain aspects of the previous one.  Indeed, the history of the humanities as a whole indicates the intellectual and emotional centrality of a narrative of destruction (revolution) and rebirth.

The history of art, music, politics, science, philosophy, and literature are characterized by strife, in which those with a vision of the future call for and bring about the destruction of venerable institutions, practices, and truth.  Taking “Apocalypse and Transformation” as its theme for 2008-2009, CHA will engage in an exploration of the interplay between ending and beginning, destruction and rebirth, prevailing chaos and emergent order.

In conjunction with the theme, CHA conducts a year-long faculty and graduate student seminar, hosts a series of lectures and public performances, and holds a Spring Colloquium.

Seminar Participants


Daniel Burton-Rose: MA Candidate, specializing in Daoism in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department. Daniel is the author of Guerrillas In Our Midst: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anti-capitalist Underground of the 1970s and the editor of Creating a Movement with Teeth: A Documentary History of the George Jackson Brigade (both forthcoming). He is also the co-editor of Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement (Softskull 2004) and The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the US Prison Industry (Common Courage 1998). An award-winning journalist, Daniel has written for the Bay Guardian, Dollars and Sense, Middle East Report, Multinational Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, and Z Magazine, among other publications.


David Cherney: PhD Candidate, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, and research associate with the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative in Jackson, WY. Dave holds a master's degree in environmental management from Yale University and a bachelor's degree in environment, economics, and politics from Claremont McKenna College. David serves on the executive council for the Society of Policy Scientists and on the program committee for the Society of Conservation Biology's Social Science Working Group. David's dissertation research focuses on conservation non-governmental organizations in greater Yellowstone.


David Glimp: Associate Professor, Department of English. David's primary field is Renaissance English literature and culture, with emphasis on the relations between literature and political/moral philosophy in the period.  He is the author of Increase and Multiply: Governing Cultural Reproduction in Early Modern England (Minnesota 2003) and the co-editor of Arts of Calculation: Quantifying Thought in Early Modern Europe (Palgrave 2004).  David is currently working to complete a manuscript entitled “The Poetics of Emergency: Security and Catastrophe in Renaissance English Literature.”


Lisa Keranen: Assistant Professor, Department of Communication. Lisa is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. Her research concerning rhetorics of science, medicine, and bioethics appears in places such as Academic Medicine, Accountability in Research, Argumentation and Advocacy, Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies, Communication Yearboook, Journal of Medical Humanities, and the Quarterly Journal of Speech. Her first book manuscript, Science and Self-Defense: Rhetoric, Politics, and the Dilemmas of Contesting Character in Breast Cancer Research, is moving forward with a university press. In the meantime, she will be using her CHA fellowship year to begin work on her second book project, Visions of Viral Apocalypse: A Rhetorical History of Biological Weapons from World War II to the War on Terror. Keränen directs the National Communication Association-Forum (NCA-F), an advisory group to the National Communication Association that promotes high quality public deliberation about salient social issues, and is a core member of the clinical ethics committee and ethics consultation team at Boulder Community Hospital. In her spare time, she enjoys Emerson’s ideal transactions—reading, walking, and gardening—and has recently been honing her amateur botany skills while bagging Colorado’s spectacular peaks.


Ruth Mas: Assistant Professor of Critical Theory and Contemporary Islam, Department of Religious Studies. Ruth's research interests include Islamic intellectual and cultural traditions, continental philosophy, the politics of secular-liberal governance and Islam in France. Her current work focuses on the connections between secularism and affect and their implications for Muslim subjects. She is co-editor of Europe of Love: Re-Centring Intercultural Affairs, Special Edited Essay Collection of the European Review of History and is completing a manuscript entitled Margins of Tawhid: Liberalism and the Discourse of Plurality in Contemporary Islamic Thought.


Eric Morgan: Ph.D. candidate, Department of History.  Eric's area of study is American foreign relations, and his research explores the transnational movement to end apartheid in South Africa, focusing on the activism of Americans.  His research has been published in several journals, including Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History, Diplomacy & Statecraft, and Passport: The Newsletter of the Society of
Historians of American Foreign Relations
.  He is also interested in the memory of history, particularly of the Great War and the Cold War, and the histories of modern American literature, espionage, and the presidency.  Beyond the historical profession, Eric is an avid cyclist
and tennis player, enjoys creative writing, music, film, travel, cooking, wine, playing the piano and guitar, and spending time with his orange cat, Nelson.


Gillian Silverman: Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Colorado Denver.  Gillian teaches courses in American literature, critical theory, and women’s and gender studies.  She is currently completing a manuscript tentatively titled, “Bodies and Books: Reading, Authorship, and Fantasies of Communion in Nineteenth-Century America.” The manuscript explores the bodily experience of nineteenth-century reading and argues that this materiality was central to the reader's sense of intimacy with books, authors, and other readers.


Michele Speitz: PhD candidate, Department of English. Michele specializes in late-eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century literature. Her work explores the intersections between narrative form, technology, temporality, and transnational relations. She published an article in the 2008 Spring/Summer edition of ELN entitled "Aural Chiaroscuro: The Emergency Radio Broadcast in Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds." Her paper "Blood Sugar and Salt Licks:
Corroding Bodies and Preserving Nations in the History of Mary Prince" was recently delivered at the 2008 Futures of American Studies Institute. She teaches British Masterpieces, Literature by Women, and Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Colorado. She also helped to organize a national conference in 2007 titled "Questions of Affect: Emotion, Sensation, and Sensibility," sponsored by the Center for British and Irish Studies (CBIS), and assisted the director of CBIS to arrange an international conference on fashion, held in the fall of 2008.


Michael Theodore: Associate Professor of Composition, College of Music. Composer and animator, Michael studied music composition at the Yale School of Music and UCSD. He joined the University of Colorado at Boulder faculty in 1998. His work, which often features interactive technology, has been performed or screened in China, Japan, Australia, Greece, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, and across the United States. He is also active in the creation of intermedia theater, and has collaborated with Michelle Ellsworth in the Department of Theatre and Dance on a number of performance pieces.

"Apocalypse and Transformation" Call for Proposals