After the Orgy

Toward a Politics of Exhaustion

By Dominic Pettman

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791453964, 222 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453957, 222 pages, July 2002

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Table of contents



Introduction: After the Orgy


The Dating Game
The Coming of the Lord
Technological Revelation
A Note on Methodology


1. Panic Merchants: Prophecy and the Satyr


The Goat in the Machine


2. The Rapture of Rupture


Sade and the Death of God
Avoiding the Void
Eroticism and the Thanatic Asymptote
Nietzsche's Dionysus
Nihilism and the Thirst for Annihilation


3. The Virtual Apocalypse


Virilio's Accident
Bacchanical Man and Ballard's Crash
Technol-orgy: From Autogeddon to Infocalypse
Snow Crash and Scopophilia
Cyborgies in the Dionysian Landscape


4. Decaying Forward: Satiety and Society


De-fragging the Self
Technologies of the Flesh


5. Cosmic Architects


Immaculate Contraception
Sexless Hydrogen: The Frisson of Fission
Dionysus in ‘69
The Politics of Play


6. Playing at Catastrophe


Prêt-à-Mort: Necrophilia and Death Fashion
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Joachite Structure of Baudrillard’s Philosophy
"A Biocybernetic Self-Fulfilling Prophecy World Orgy I": or Surviving the Necropolis
Temporary Autonomous Zones and the Archaic Revival
Civilization and Its Discotheques
After the Orgy (But Before the Test Results)
Conclusion: The Revelation Will not be Televised
Y2Care: Debugging the Millennium
The Owl of Minerva Versus the Millennium Falcon
Means to an End



Works Cited


Explores the post-Enlightenment obsession with apocalyptic endings.


Applying Jean Baudrillard's question "What are you doing after the orgy?" to the postmillennial climate that informs our contemporary cultural moment, this book argues that the imagination of apocalyptic endings has been an obsessive theme in post-Enlightenment culture. Dominic Pettman identifies and examines the dynamic tensions of various apocalyptic discourses, from the fin-de-siècle decadents of the 1890s to the fin-de-millènnium cyberpunks of the 1990s, in order to highlight the complex constellation of exhaustion, anticipation, panic, and ecstasy in contemporary culture. Through analyses of rapturous cults, cyberpunk literature, post-apocalyptic cinema, techno-paganism, death fashion, and the Y2K prophecy, After the Orgy explores why the twentieth century swung so violently between the poles of anticipation and anticlimax. In the process, the book raises pressing questions concerning the relevance of such ideas in our new millennium and points out alternatives to the monotonous horror of traditional narratives.

Dominic Pettman is Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam.


"Thoughtful, wide-ranging, and eloquently written . .. After the Orgy cannot be reduced to any single simplistic thesis, and this is one of its major strengths. It acknowledges and affirms complexity, and yet it presents this complexity in a compellingly clear manner. In short, Pettman is a fine critic, both in terms of breadth of reference and understanding, and in terms of subtlety and thought. " — Steven Shaviro, author of Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism

"The range of cultural and textual readings offered here are complemented by Pettman's talent for telling a 'story. ' Instead of laboring through a dry interpretation of millennial practices, I listened to a fine storyteller interpret and draw attention to important practices taking place at the present. " — Todd F. Davis, coeditor of Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory