From antiquity through the Enlightenment, disasters were attributed to the obscure power of the stars or the vengeance of angry gods. As philosophers sought to reassess the origins of natural disasters, they also made it clear that humans shared responsibility for the damages caused by a violent universe. This far-ranging book explores the way writers, thinkers, and artists have responded to the increasingly political concept of disaster from the Enlightenment until today.
Marie-Hélène Huet argues that post-Enlightenment culture has been haunted by the sense of emergency that made natural catastrophes and human deeds both a collective crisis and a personal tragedy. From the plague of 1720 to the cholera of 1832, from shipwrecks to film dystopias, disasters raise questions about identity and memory, technology, control, and liability. In her analysis, Huet considers anew the mythical figures of Medusa and Apollo, theories of epidemics, earthquakes, political crises, and films such as Blow-Up and Blade Runner. With its scope and precision, The Culture of Disaster will appeal to a wide public interested in modern culture, philosophy, and intellectual history.