, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 517–523 | Cite as

Losing the world knowingly

Jean-Baptiste Fressoz: L’apocalypse joyeuse: Une histoire du risque technologique. Paris: Le Seuil, 2012, 320pp, €23.30 PB Rosalind Williams: The Triumph of human empire: Verne, Morris and Stevenson at the end of the world. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2013, 432pp, $30.00 HB
  • Mieke van Hemert
Survey Review

Modernity is Apocalyptic in essence. This assertion is stated nowhere in The Triumph of Human Empire by Rosalind Williams, nor in l’Apocalypse Joyeuse by Jean-Baptiste Fressoz. But it is everywhere on the pages of these books, which recount the ambivalence with which the project of Modernity and its technological feats has been received in specific times and places, notably nineteenth century Europe. Essence here is not to be understood as transcendental a-historical necessity, but as unfolding historical ontology. Despite contingencies, the project of Modernity has continued to realise a secular ending of the world by continuing to conquer and destroy it.

In The Triumph of Human Empirewe encounter ambivalence through the biographies and works of three European writers, who employed the genre of romance to express their uneasiness with modern civilisation and progress: Jules Verne, William Morris and Louis Stevenson. Verne is perhaps the writer which we would least expect to have...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Policy Analysis, Institute for Environmental StudiesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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