(34) Chapter 8 cont.

Gripping stories of young lovers and an old dastard; Lionel’s nemesis returns.

From a critical standpoint, it may be a weakness of The Last Man that Mary Shelley gives such short shrift to most of the globe in her fictional global pandemic. Certainly she’d never get away with it today, nor with her manner of generalizing, often in pitying tones, about places in the southern hemisphere, and making them sound like vast, sweltering blanks. Since she was writing of the distant future, it might have been nice if she’d offered us more speculation in this regard—more world building, so to speak, instead of, say, a North American continent still stuck at 1826 levels of wilderness and savagery. On the other hand, she may have been expressing a deliberately cynical worldview, one suggesting there’d be no improvement and nothing would change. Human life on Earth would continue to be best and most bearable in (parts of) England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece.

Deer-Headed Figure. Source; Cleveland Museum of Art

Sadly, her blind spot towards the lands across the Atlantic keeps Mary Shelley from making or delving into any of the interesting connections she could have found among the histories of our “lost” civilizations. She appears to view the cultures of Mesoamerica destroyed by Cortez as no more than a source of Spanish gold and wealth; yet this installment’s scary cornfield scene features a crop developed there.

Further south, on Peru’s desert coast, the Moche people also raised corn, built cities and irrigation systems, performed sacrifices (llama and human), and created beautiful objects which have endured for over 1,500 years. The Moche themselves lasted about seven centuries, then they were gone, the Why a mystery: earthquakes or sandstorms, drought or floods; or, obviously, some virus.  From Archaeology, this article covers their art of ceremonial badminton in full.

Source; Cleveland Museum of Art

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