The term “apocalypse” refers to a “removal of the veil”—the veil, that is, that hides the secrets of the cosmos from most people and that is pulled back for only a chosen few. “Apocalyptic” more commonly refers to visions of the end time and to the movements that shape themselves in response to these visions. This class explores apocalyptic as a worldview, as a movement with distinct social, political, and cultural aims, and as a discourse that scripts a community’s encounters with wider culture.
From ancient Israel to modern Japan, we will explore the diversity of apocalyptic through canonical texts, social movements, and contemporary literary and cinematic expressions. One focal point will be the New Testament book of Revelation, which has influenced apocalyptic thought through the millennia. We will also examine later writings to learn how key motifs, symbols, and themes were transmitted, appropriated, and re-imagined. The second focal point for the class will be the development in modern America of apocalyptic movements, communities, and literatures, as they have adapted to the changing political, cultural, and social landscape from the nineteenth century to the present.