The Politics of the End of the World

From protesting nuclear weapons to contemplating the apocalyptic return of Jesus to preparing for climate change, politics plays a role in preventing, reacting to, or facilitating the end of the world. In this seminar that mixes literature, social science, and political theory, students and I explore the politics of the end of the world, from the dramatic and rapid to the slow-moving and mundane. In the course, students work in groups to prepare original, reported narrative podcast episodes of 20 to 25 minutes that explore those topics. These projects become episodes of the podcast Final Examination, available to the public through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. The episodes deal with ends of the world that have taken place in Massachusetts, from the extermination of the Christianized “Praying Indians” in the late seventeenth century to the life and demise of a community of Black whalers in Nantucket in the nineteenth to how climate change threatens coastal communities today. Students write, produce, edit, and perform the episodes, including expert interviews and in one case an original musical score composed and performed by the students themselves. The experience of putting together these episodes involves practicing a range of skills, from researching to writing for the ear to using Audacity audio editing suite, that demonstrates to students their ability to master a set of new challenges.

The podcast

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