When COVID-19 hit, Richard Miller was teaching a new version of his introduction to 21st century literatures entitled, “Writing after the End of the World.” The organizing question for this course is/was: “how does writing change when it is produced in the wake of a dying world?”
The course began in late January 2020 and halfway through the semester, in the midst of reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, it became clear that the spring semester was going to be disrupted by a global pandemic. Miller decided to take advantage of the situation. They would keep reading and discussing examples of writers experimenting with ways to end their stories in times when the future seems both unknown and threatening at the same time. But they would also shift, in the final three weeks of the course, from being readers to being writers. In the process, they built a Digital Decameron for the 21st century, collecting a range of ways people living through a pandemic responded to the situation–with stories, songs, videos, research papers, advice, poetry, and more.