Infrastructures of Apocalypse

American Literature and the Nuclear Complex

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Jessica Hurley

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Since 1945, America has spent more resources on nuclear technology than any other national project. Although it requires a massive infrastructure that touches society on myriad levels, nuclear technology has typically been discussed in a limited, top-down fashion that clusters around powerful men. In Infrastructures of Apocalypse, Jessica Hurley turns this conventional wisdom on its head, offering a new approach that focuses on neglected authors and Black, queer, Indigenous, and Asian American perspectives.

Exchanging the usual white, male “nuclear canon” for authors that include James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Ruth Ozeki, Infrastructures of Apocalypse delivers a fresh literary history of post-1945 America that focuses on apocalypse from below. Here Hurley critiques the racialized urban spaces of civil defense and reads nuclear waste as a colonial weapon. Uniting these diverse lines of inquiry is Hurley’s belief that apocalyptic thinking is not the opposite of engagement but rather a productive way of imagining radically new forms of engagement.

Infrastructures of Apocalypse offers futurelessness as a place from which we can construct a livable world. It fills a blind spot in scholarship on American literature of the nuclear age, while also offering provocative, surprising new readings of such well-known works as Atlas Shrugged, Infinite Jest, and Angels in America. Infrastructures of Apocalypse is a revelation for readers interested in nuclear issues, decolonial literature, speculative fiction, and American studies.

Background photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash


  • rights
    Portions of chapter 4 were previously published as “Impossible Futures: Fictions of Risk in the Longue Durée,” American Literature 89, no. 4 (2017): 761–79; reprinted by permission of Duke University Press. Portions of the Coda were previously published as “Complicity, for the Time Being: Nuclear Entanglements from Atoms for Peace to Fukushima,” in “Complicity in Post-1945 Literature: Theory, Politics, Aesthetics,” ed. Adam Kelly and Will Norman, special issue of Comparative Literature Studies 56, no. 4 (2019): 750–68; reprinted by permission of The Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Copyright 2020 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota
  • publisher
    University of Minnesota Press
  • publisher place
    Minneapolis, MN
  • restrictions
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
  • rights holder
    Regents of the University of Minnesota