Pocket Apocalypse: American Survivalist Fictions from Walden to The Incredible Shrinking Man

  • George Slusser

Abstract

Survivalism. To Americans today, the word suggests militias, armed preservation of personal freedoms in the wake of a violent (and much desired) collapse of the state. But there are much broader cultural resonances. Survivalism defines the traditional way America has dealt with its sense of an ending, conceived of the relation of the American individual to history and destiny. In what is commonly seen as its apocalyptic context, the central ideal of survivalism is simple. For when apocalypse is always now, thus the individual in perpetual training for the end, might this not be the way to defer this end perpetually? As with the title of the popular survivalist catalog Loompanics, panic ever looms. In this catalog, the citizen finds the self-help manuals that enable him to prepare. These are the means whereby each can, if only for himself alone, foreshorten secular and divine history, whereby each stretches individual life into an endless ‘now’ of preparation, in a forever war against Armageddon.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self Reliance’, in Anthology of American Literature, I, edited George McMichael (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.), 1974, p. 1322.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden, in Anthology of American Literature, I, ed. George McMichael (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.), p. 1639.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Slusser

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