November 23, 2021

H. G. Wells and the Apocalypse

Wells’ World Brain, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere, and the University at the End of the World

Event Series: The Christian Literary Imagination

Showing the H. G. Wells and the Apocalypse Video

In this talk, Charles Tung discussed recent visions of the university and the future of knowledge transmission in contemporary apocalyptic and ethnofuturist fictions. By looking back to previous fantasies of historical progress and evolutionary global interconnection such as H.G. Wells’ “world brain” and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “noosphere,” Tung explored the unforeseen harmful half-lives of modernity’s hopes and the history supporting those hopes, as well as the challenges of viral culture to the humanist mission of universities. Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, provided opening and closing remarks, and Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J. moderated a Q&A following Tung's presentation.

This event was sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master’s Program in the Engaged and Public Humanities; Campion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of a two-year-long series on the Christian Literary Imagination.


Charles Tung is a professor and chair of the English Department at Seattle University. His doctoral work focused on early twentieth-century British and American literature and time philosophy. He also has research interests in race and atavism, models of history and identity in cultural and ethnic studies, and time-travel narratives. Most recently, he published Modernism and Time Machines (2020) with Edinburgh University Press.

Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J., (moderator) is an American Catholic priest currently writing his doctoral thesis at Campion Hall, Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Graham Ward. He is exploring the Christian imagination and the fertile place where belief and unbelief touch in the fiction of Virginia Woolf and Marilynne Robinson. Simmons previously studied theology at Boston College and the Harvard Divinity School. His Licentiate in Sacred Theology thesis, “Via Literaria: Marilynne Robinson's Theology Through a Literary Imagination,” explored the convergence of literary and Christian imaginations.