On the apocalyptic columbine

Joshua Gunn, David E. Beard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this essay we argue that mass media coverage of crises has begun to adopt an emerging social form or subgenre of theological discourse that we term the “apocalyptic sublime.” The apocalyptic sublime is characterized by the forwarding of an immanent temporality without promise of relief and by the promotion of an unstable subjectivity (in this case, a disoriented spectator) that is fruitfully described as an experience of sublimity. Our exemplar is the coverage of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which has yet to fall from public view. The essay proceeds by first describing the apocalyptic sublime in relationship to technologies of representation and the logics of perception that they create. Then, both broadcast and online representations of the massacre are analyzed. We conclude by arguing that mass media versions of the apocalyptic sublime are ideally suited to the logics of late or “millennial” capitalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-216
Number of pages19
JournalSouthern Communication Journal
Volume68
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

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