Writing Plague: Myth, Morality, and Modernity
May 19, 2023
In the foundational texts of Western civilisation (the Bible, Iliad), plagues are symbols of divine retribution, signifying Godly displeasure with human misdeeds. But in Thucydides’ classic account of the mysterious plague that swept Athens in 430 BC, Camus’s La Peste, and Elizabeth St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, literary accounts of plagues and pandemics are also morality tales and metaphors for the dissolution of the social bonds necessary for the functioning of modern societies. In this talk, I bring the history of plague writing into dialogue with the history of trust, to examine what plague texts tell us about our foundational myths and our obsession with calamities and crises.