Eva Horn: The Last Man - Apocalypse as Anthropological Test Site
The vision of the "Last Man" has haunted the modern age ever since Romanticism. The last man is the tragic hero of an apocalypse that is deprived of any theological framework - no Last Judgment, no New Jerusalem. He is a figure of an entirely secular, catastrophic futurity. The talk will focus on the moment around 1800 when the "classic" eschatological model of apocalypse is replaced by a secular conception of an end of the world, namely in texts by Jean Paul and Lord Byron and the paintings of John Martin. What is at stake in the imaginations of an end of mankind is a reflection on the nature of man, which focuses on man's biological existence. From here, the birth of modern biopolitics can be retraced to Romanticism's apocalyptic imaginary.
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Eva Horn is professor of modern German literature at the University of Vienna. She has held positions at the universities of Konstanz, Frankfurt/Oder, and Basel. Her work focuses on the relation between modern literature and political theory. Her most recent book, entitled "The Secret War. Espionage, Treason and Modern Fiction" (published in German in 2007, forthcoming at Northwestern University Press in 2013), is a history of the relation between literature and political secrecy in the 20th century. Her current research project - working title: “The Future as Catastrophe. Fiction and the Politics of Prevention” - revolves around the "catastrophic imaginary" of the modern age and the political and epistemological implications of modernity's infatuation with apocalypse.