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The Damned$
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Nick Riddle

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781911325529

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781911325529.001.0001

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The Living, The Dead and the Damned

The Living, The Dead and the Damned

(p.79) Chapter 8: The Living, The Dead and the Damned
The Damned

Nick Riddle

Liverpool University Press

This chapter explores how Joseph Losey's The Damned (1963) deals with the subject of the nuclear war. In the popular imagination, atomic weapons were simply too big to deal with. In The Damned, nobody mentions nuclear war or atomic weapons by name, and Bernard speaks in allusions and euphemisms. The strategies of allusions and euphemisms reduce the subject of apocalypse to a more manageable, more portable, and more mysterious thing, a 'great whatsit'. Radiation answers this requirement: it is invisible, human-scale, insidious, slower in its effects. The notion of radiation as a virus, like smallpox, that can be used in small amounts to inoculate someone against its own effects is founded on a fallacy — and it is the same fallacy that underlies the irradiated children in The Damned. One can sense, in this uneasy mix of science and superstition, the struggles of post-war culture to come to terms with the puzzling, sinister new world of nuclear physics. The chapter then considers how The Damned experiments with the distinction between living and non-living.

Keywords:   Joseph Losey, The Damned, nuclear war, atomic weapons, allusions, euphemisms, radiation, post-war culture, nuclear physics

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