Victorian Popular Fictions 5.2 7 Asselin


The Providential Genocides: Racial Survival and Acts of God in Fin-de-Siècle Apocalyptic Fiction

Steve Asselin

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This paper focuses on three narratives from the popular press during the boom in apocalyptic literature at the turn of the twentieth century: George Griffith’s Olga Romanoff (1894), Robert Barr’s “Within an Ace of the End of the World” (1900), and M. P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud (1901). In all three texts, a catastrophic event causes the near extinction of humanity, and the event is inscribed in a religious narrative wherein humanity’s moral failings justify the cataclysm. In these texts, the survivors are European or descended from Europeans, such that post-apocalyptic humanity is exclusively White; all racial Others are depicted as unworthy of divine protection, or even as worthy of divine destruction. The survivors of these disasters fuse social Darwinism and theology to present themselves as racially superior and thus divinely favoured, compared to the deceased. The providential genocide significantly alters ethical ramifications by ensuring that racial elimination does not occur because of deliberate actions on the part of characters, sparing them from any culpability; instead, racial cleansing is presented as God’s will. This sets up a White exclusivist racial utopia free of moral stain, although the persistence of racial ideology into the apocalypse can undermine the utopian sentiment.


apocalypse; disaster fiction; race; providence; genocide; White exclusivity; immaculate colonisation; George Griffith; Robert Barr; M. P. Shiel

Date of Acceptance: 16 December 2023

Date of Publication: 20 December 2023

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Asselin, Steve. 2023. “The Providential Genocides: Racial Survival and Acts of God in Fin-de-Siècle Apocalyptic Fiction.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 5.2: 89-103. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI

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