In the Shadow of End Times

HPI Mini-Seminar led by Kévin Irakóze

This course explores human collectivities’ reactions to the destruction of social worlds. At times, worlds that have sustained a group of people fall apart. The course seeks to understand what it is like to witness this falling apart as well as what modes of imagination are called for in this moment. The central text will be Léonora Miano’s Season of the Shadow which showcases a community’s journey through a catastrophe they cannot understand, and which changes the community indelibly. Miano’s novel depicts a village community’s experience of the abduction of their young men at the advent of enslavement. The book’s five sections will be read one section per week and with each section we will read an academic journal article or book chapter to help us think through important questions. Some of the questions will include: How do communities and/or individuals relate to loss and destruction? How does a catastrophe affect social relations? How does trauma manifest in reaction to the loss of a social world? What modes of imagination do we call onto for aid in radically difficult times? How does mourning manifest for events that are not grasped in understanding? In this course we will pay attention to both an individual and communal responses to catastrophe. The novel as a genre will aid us in developing that attention as we engage with the conscious and unconscious aspects of experience as well as narrative modes that illuminate these dimensions.


  • Meeting Times: Fridays, 3pm-4:30pm. Meetings begin 1/29/21 (Full meeting dates: 1/29, 2/5, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26).
  • Location: All meetings held remotely via Zoom. Meeting links provided upon RSVP.
  • Eligibility: All University of Chicago undergraduate students are eligible to participate, but space is limited.
  • Participation: To RSVP, please contact Zack Loveless:
  • Deadline: Please RSVP by January 26th.
  • Coursework: See reading schedule below.
At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Identify issues related to social catastrophes and the flourishing of human life
  • Explain key social and psychological impacts of collective loss
  • Define, compare and evaluate various reactive attitudes to the destruction of social worlds
  • Relate modes of social imagination to specific historical situations

The main text we will use is Season of the Shadow, a novel by Léonora Miano. Each section of the book will be accompanied with an academic text. The latter will be used to elucidate the text and will thus function as recommended reading: the instructor will present key points from each text in class.

All background readings will be distributed by email. If you need help getting a copy of the main text, please contact zloveless at

Diversity: We come together in this space from different backgrounds and with varying interests (both personal and academic). Each of us is encouraged to recognize this fact throughout. We will aim to treat one another as “humanly” as possible: by an awareness that we are different and drawing from that difference to build each other up. We will understand and interpret the texts best if we draw from what is interesting in them to us each on a personal/individual level. Be aware of your positionality in the larger society and in this classroom space.

Disability: If you need an accommodation in this class (e.g. if you need a notetaker), you are encouraged to contact Zack Loveless (zloveless at as soon as possible.

1/29; Session 1: Catastrophe and Limits of Thought
“Fuliginous Dawn.” Season of the Shadow, 5-66.
Cora Diamond, “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy”; “Losing Concepts”
2/5; Session 2: Narrating Loss
“The Shadow Speaks.” Season of the Shadow, 67-110.
Kearny, Richard. “Narrating Pain: The Power of Catharsis.”
2/12; Session 3: Contours of mourning
“Water Trails.” Season of the Shadow, 111-157.
Gana, Nouri. “Thresholds of Mourning: Freud and After.”
2/19; Session 4: Disaster and Temporality
“Lands of Capture.” Season of the Shadow 158-206.
Lear, Jonathan. “After this Nothing Happened.”
2/26; Session 5: Moving past the end
“End Times.” Season of the Shadow, 207-237.
Shotwell, Alexis. “Remembering for the Future: Reckoning with an Unjust Past”