Apocalypses re-Visioned is a study of literature, catastrophe culture, and the psychopathology of nihilism fetish. The analysis examines the incidence of the use of the word “apocalypse” in 20th century fiction and non-fiction literature as it relates to cataclysm events to determine what factors fuel the cultural predilection to fantasise the end of the world.

Although one would expect that cataclysmic events such as armed conflict would drive the incidence of “apocalypse” in literature, no such correlation exists.¹ So much so, that during the 20th century’s two most destructive wars, the use of the word was at its lowest in non-fiction literature.

A strong positive and statistically significant correlation exists between non-fiction and fiction incidences of “apocalypse”.² Though the relationship between fiction/non-fiction is positive in nature, the incidence of “apocalypse” is staggered in magnitude between the two – a pronounced peak in fiction literature occurs 27 years before an proportionately equivalent one in non-fiction. The analysis suggests that fictional representations of the end of the world drive socially relevant narratives much more than cataclysms experienced in real life.³

Apocalypses re-Visioned is an data-historical analysis of the cataclysm myth – a longing to confront a patently meaningless universe through the creative triumph of imagining an end of the world where humanity’s destruction means something.

We escape from a present too difficult to bear through a perverse and clichéd eschatological nostalgia presaged on an apocalyptic future. Humanity needs new catastrophe narratives to focus an engagement with more probable dystopias to come.

  1. Spearman's Rho Correlation analysis between non-fiction literature references to “apocalypse” and the frequency of armed conflict (number of wars per year) : N = 101, T= 2.4128, r² = 0.05554, Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient = 0.2357. P-value = 2 * Min(p, 1 - p) = 2 * Min(0.9912, 0.008835) = 0.9912. The result is not significant at p < .01.
  2. Pearson Correlation Coefficient analysis between fiction and non-fiction literature corpora : N = 101, X values mean = 3.1666734e-5, Y values mean = 1.9394667e-5, r = 30593.257 / √((69847.168)(21280.158)) r = 0.7935. P-Value is < .00001. The result is significant at p < .01.
  3. Fiction corpus references to “apocalypse” peak in 1972 – 27 years before an equivalent peak in references to “apocalypse” in non-fiction literature. The magnitude difference between fiction and non-fiction corpora references to “apocalypse” in 1972 was 3.2 fold : 9.85991e-5% / 3.10295e-5%, fiction / non-fiction respectively.