Thursday 10 November. Après le déluge: Post-apocalyptic archaism

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 10 November

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

This week Dr Ben Pestell continues our discussion of Mythscapes with a session on post-apocalyptic archaism in J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World


Joseph Magnus Stäck, Italian Landscape of Ruins in Moonlight, 1850 [work on the public domain]

In Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962), a modern, post-diluvian landscape is transformed by the resurgent flora and fauna of the Palaeozoic and Triassic eras. At the same time, the inhabitants of the drowned city are increasingly plagued by shared dreams of a prehistoric landscape and a huge, pulsating, captivating sun. In Ballard’s vision, the post-apocalyptic and the archaic collide, just as the psychological and the material realms are confused. The scenario echoes the conditions described by Freud, in Totem and Taboo, in his speculation on the traumatic origin of myth and religion. Is myth really so freighted with trauma and remorse?

Set reading: extracts from Ballard’s The Drowned World and Freud’s Totem and Taboo.

  • J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World [1962] (London: Fourth Estate, 2012)
  • Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics [1913], trans. James Strachey [1950] (London: Routledge, 2001)


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