As those of us in the know are all too acutely aware, the end of the world is going to take place on December 21, 2012. We are not sure what will happen–will the universe simply implode in God’s hands? will a terrible virus spread like lightning, driving man and beast alike mad?–but we at Room 220 are going to be prepared. We invite you to prepare with us.
In conjunction with the End of Days (As Seen on TV) exhibition on display at the Antenna Gallery beginning Dec. 8, Press Street (Room 220‘s parent nonprofit, for those of you who haven’t figured this out yet) is hosting a series of events designed to inform, train, and prepare you mentally, physically, and emotionally for the apocalypse to come. Along with tutorials on first aid and distilling alcohol by Natalie McLaurin, Ryn Wilson, and Robert Clark, and a two-night post-apocalyptic film extravaganza presented by Wesley Stokes, the folks from Room 220 will host two presentations in anticipation of the world’s end:
Monday, Dec. 10, 6 – 9 p.m. — Catherine Wessinger (with Amanda Brinkman)
Thursday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. — Moira Crone
Both events take place at the Press Street Headquarters (3718 St. Claude Ave.)
First, on Monday, Dec. 10, from 6 – 9 p.m., Room 220 will host a Happy Hour Salon, during which internationally renowned scholar of millennialism Catherine Wessinger will give a presentation entitled “Hoping for the End of the World as We Know It.” Amanda Brinkman, a New Orleans-based pop culture scholar, will precede Wessinger’s presentation with a talk about pop cultural reactions to contemporary end-of-the-world predictions. The presentations will begin shortly after 7 p.m., but guests are invited to hang out, imbibe, and swap notes on how they will handle the impending doom. DJ Brian Boyles will provide music.
Catherine Wessinger’s writing on millennial movements—commonly thought of as cults—includes three book-length oral histories of the Branch Davidians, whose residence outside Waco, Texas, was famously besieged by federal agents in 1993. Her book How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate examines the complex relations between millennialism and violence, which often results from a group’s adherence to a “higher order” that conflicts with societal norms or the mandates of law enforcement. Wessinger also edited the Oxford Handbook on Millennialism, which is part of one of the most respected and authoritative scholarly series in the world.
“Hoping for the End of the World as We Know It” will cover the strains of optimism one often finds among millennial groups awaiting the end times, from early Christians who believed the world would end within a generation of Jesus up to the Family Radio movement’s predictions that the world would end in 2011. She will discuss the role charisma plays in the construction of millennial movements, as well as the ways in which interactions between believers and law enforcement often lead to violence. Wessinger points out that the characteristics of millennial groups—which are often considered utterly marginal—have been replicated time and time again in “mainstream culture,” even in the case of recent presidential elections.
Wessinger is the Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans. Along with her books and numerous articles, she also serves as co-general editor of the journal Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, published by University of California Press.
Then, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, New Orleans author Moira Crone will present a reading of her new novel, The Not Yet, which takes place in the near future, in a post-apocalyptic Mississippi Delta in which resources are slim, society is radically stratified, the elites are hellbent on living forever, and one young hero is left to piece together a life in a world that likely resembles our own future. Author John Biguenet said of the book: “When Moira Crone’s The Not Yet is read in 2121, its readers will ask of us, ‘If you knew enough about what was coming to have books like this, why didn’t you do something about it?’ And they’ll be right, for The Not Yet sounds an awful lot like The Pretty Soon.”
Besides The Not Yet, Crone’s books include the short story collections What Gets Into Us, Dream State, and The Winnebago Mysteries, as well as the novel A Period of Confinement. Her writing has been published in numerous magazines, including the New Yorker and the Oxford American, and her fiction has appeared repeatedly in Algonquin Books’ New Stories from the South series. She has received a Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, an individual artist’s grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a William Faulkner/Wisdom Award for Novella, among other recognition. She lives in New Orleans.