THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Americas studies blog

20 May 2011

Out of this World Rapture

Outofthisworldhome 
It was an ordinary evening, but then, disaster struck: halfway home, I realised that I'd left my phone on the desk, so I turned my bike around and headed back to the Library, planning on popping back via the main entrance.

Leaving my bike in the piazza, I noticed that something out of the ordinary was up.  Why all these people heading towards the entrace with a certain eagerness and intensity?  Was that the author of The Unconsoled?  And didn't she write that book about xyz?  Was that something odd overhead, something strange in the air? As I had a bag with me, I presented my pass at the door to skip the usual search and then noticed that the Front Hall was full of people.  The security guard then reminded me that it was the opening for the Library's Science Fiction exhibition -  Out of This World: science fiction but not as you know it.

Not being one of the elect, I duly headed (as I should have done all along) to the staff entrance.  But it was good timing, given that a US preacher has declared tomorrow as the beginning of the end of the world: the Rapture, no less.  Those inside would have been able to prepare themselves by studying one of the sections, which looks at this very topic.  From an American Studies point of view, the phenonomen of 'End Days' literature, such as the bestselling 'Left Behind' series, has begun to attact a range of academic study, ranging from literary criticism and theology to military strategy, as well as comment pieces like this one in the Guardianand an online host of satire.  It is, after all, very American form of Millennialism.

The exhibition is free, and is now open for visits at the Library's St Pancras building, assuming we are all still here.  There are also plenty of events, as well, including many sponsored by the Eccles Centre with an American twist.  You can also keep an eye on things via the exhibition blog.

[Update: 23 May] We are still here, which gives me the opportunity to add a link to UEA's Thomas Rus Smith's post on 'Apocalypse on the Mississippi!'): 'There is a long history of prophesying Armageddon, particularly along or in relation to the Mississippi. Indeed, the current interest in the possibility of imminent rapture is as nothing compared to events in the nineteenth century...'

[MJS]

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