The Millennium Cometh: Apocalypse and Utopia in Bible, Sociology and Literature Profs. John Coleman, S.J.
(Sociology), Felix Just, S.J. (Theology),
Holli Levitsky (English) Loyola Marymount University - Spring 2000
Reading Guide, Discussion Questions and Writing Assignment
for BLOCK 6: LOS ANGELES IN APOCALYPTIC PERSPECTIVE
The following questions are intended both to help guide your own reading
of the assigned texts, and to stimulate our small group discussions on
Thursday, April 13. Also, the instructions for your third written exercise
are appended further below.
Tues, April 4
Sociological Readings: Mike Davis, "Beyond Blade Runner" (from
of Fear, 359-422 - on library reserve or E-Res)
How would you explain Ernest Burgess' Chicago School of Sociology grid
for urban ecology about spatial apartheid to a non-expert? Explain the
phrases urban concentration, centralization, segregation, invasion, succession.
Explain also what you take to be the sociological usefulness of Burgess'
urban ecology scheme.
In his classic book, Discipline and Punish (in French Punir et
Surveiller, i.e. "Punish and Surveillance"), Michael Foucault talks
about a new "surveillance society." Using material from Davis' chapter,
explain why you do (or do not) think that Los Angeles has become the nightmare
You read that Los Angeles is the capital (per capita) of racial hate crimes.
Do you think there is a connection between Los Angeles' deliberate spatial
apartheid and the lack of true urban spaces where public crowds can
gather, on the one hand, and the racial prejudices and violence found in
In general, do you agree or disagree with the claim in Davis that "fear
eats the soul of Los Angeles"?
Thurs, April 6
Literary Readings: Nathanael West, Day of the Locust
In what way is Day of the Locust "apocalyptic"? In what way might
it be "grotesque"?
How might West's vision of Los Angeles be described as utopic or dystopic?
West's characters seem to be the marginal figures who exist on the fringes
of the film industry. Why isn't he interested in the glamorous aspects
of the Hollywood myth?
What does Tod Hackett's painting "The Burning of Los Angeles" suggest about
the intermingling of illusion and reality in Hollywood? About Los Angeles
in the late thirties? About the California Dream?
Literary Reading: Joan Didion, "Los Angeles Notebook," in
towards Bethlehem (on library reserve or E-Res)
How does Didion connect Los Angeles weather patterns to the apocalypse?
What is Didion's view of Los Angeles?
Tues, April 11
Guest Lecturer: Thomas McGovern, "The New City: Art
and Architecture of the Millennium"
How has the digital revolution transformed (is transforming) our world?
If you have seen the film "Matrix", compare its subject to that in McGovern's
photographic work, "The New City." What kind of futuristic vision(s)
do they share? How are they different?
Does "The New City" seem like a Utopia? A Dystopia? Apocalyptic?
How and why?
Thurs, April 13 - Discussion Groups
Writing Assignment for Block #6 [See the main page of Questions &
Reflections for additional Writing Guidelines and Tips]
In "Los Angeles Notebook," Joan Didion makes the following
observation about Los Angeles: Los Angeles weather is the weather of
catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters
of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and
the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life
in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability.
In what specific way(s) does Didion suggest that our quality of life
here is affected by the weather? How is it the weather of "apocalypse"?
Does she draw conclusions about other factors in LA besides the weather?
What are these other factors? Do you agree with her observations about
Los Angeles? Why or why not? Use these questions as guidelines for an essay
about Joan Didion's discussion of Los Angeles as apocalyptic.
In Day of the Locust, Tod Hackett observes that certain
people "come to California to die." To whom does he refer? What is their
"messianic rage" and how does the apparatus of mass fantasy play into such