Uncharted Territory:

Apocalypse, Jeremiad, and Abjection in Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play

  • Carlos Tkacz (Author)


I use Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play (2013) to explore the ways in which contemporary social structures—generally pop culture and specifically entertainment—operate much like the historical, political, and religious structures of prophecy and apocalypse but, in these forms, explode the bottom of the U-shaped jeremiad and propel their characters into an abyss of ‘bottomless memory’ and society as abjection, using Julia Kristeva’s formulation of the term; that is, these social structures have denied the characters in Mr. Burns access to the new future the jeremiad promises. Key to this reading is the concept of the jeremiad as a narrative structure of apocalypse and prophecy that brings the past into contact with both present and future and imaginings of wilderness as both a space of renewal and risk. I consider the place of self/subject and the role of art/literature in the tensions among the stories of the past, the realities of the present, and the unknowns of the future.


apocalypse, postapocalypse, theater, jeremiad, pop culture