Agora Speaker Series:Book Release & Reading: Desiring the Bomb: Communication, Psychoanalysis, and the Atomic Age

January 25, 2019 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

What would you do if the Bomb dropped today?


For more than seventy years, Americans have obsessed about the possibility of nuclear war. In novels, films, and television shows, strategic simulations and videogames, in nuclear tests and paranoid Doomsday prepping, the tendrils of the Bomb still reach through our culture in ways both striking and subtle. Our imaginations of the end of the world are often horrific…and yet, we never seem to stop.


Desiring the Bomb asks how we imagine nuclear apocalypse, and why these narratives endlessly repeat. The cycle of a world first here, then gone, then here resembles the Fort-Da game described by Sigmund Freud, where what we enjoy isn’t presence or absence, but the illusion that we have control over them.


These topics are explored in Desiring the Bomb through diverse threads such as Lacanian psychoanalysis, classical rhetoric, and religious studies, all converging on the problem of how we talk about something we insist is beyond the power of words. This examination begins with accounts of the Trinity test, followed by nuclear war simulations, the covert racism of civil defense plans, and ends with contemporary survivalist movements. Desiring the Bomb makes a case for a reexamination of how rhetoric and psychoanalysis intersect to explain one of the most vexing fears—and fantasies—of the Atomic Age.

Location and Address

602 Cathedral of Learning (CL)