Topics in Apocalyptic Writing
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"
The last book of the Bible, sometimes called
Apocalypse, sometimes Revelation, was written at the end of the first
century AD, in the apparent belief that the end of the world was
imminent. The world has not ended (yet) but the themes of John's book
continue to fascinate. Should it be read literally or metaphorically?
Is it prediction or allegory? What is the connection between
revelation and the end of the world? Between mythology and
eschatology, vision and violence, prophecy and poetry, memory and
millenialism? This course will center on readings of John, Langland,
Dante and Blake, but will require the reading of images as well as
texts. This may include (but will not be limited to) medieval
manuscript illuminations in illustration of the Apocalypse of John,
medieval and early modern allegorical paintings, and Blake's
Illuminations. We will also make excursions into the works of other
prophets and poets, theorizers of the prophetic, the poetic and the
allegorical, and into the worlds of some people who may be both,
either or neither and who believe that although the world did not end
in the year 2000, we are living in the end times
- John, The Book of
- Dante Alighieri, Inferno and
- Langland, Piers Plowman ,
- Blake, The Marriage of Heaven
and Hell; America A Prophecy;
- Europe A Prophecy,
- Umberto Eco, The Name of the
discussion: each student will take
responsibility once during the semester for leading discussion on
a particular text or image(which the rest of the class will have
read or seen). When you are the leader, you will need to establish
the necessary background or context for "your" text, to develop
provocative questions, and to be prepared to draw some sort of
tentative conclusion. Students interested in presenting some
aspect of modern apocalyptic fervor ("rapture", Waco, the Left
Behind series, etc.) for one of these assignments should see
me asap. You should write up a brief summary (1-2 page) of your
own thinking on the subject under discussion and give this to me
at the end of the class, but please don't feel that you have to
read a prepared piece. Generating good questions out of the
thinking you have been doing is infinitely preferable!
- 2 brief (2-3 pg.) close
readings, one of a text and one of an
image. Check out an example of a close
reading of an image by Salvador Dali.
- 1 longer
research paper (15pp), due at the end
of the semester. While this paper may consider a modern text or
phenomenon, it must be solidly grounded in the apocalyptic
tradition as explored during the class.
- Epiphanies, visions, and sudden revelations
are encouraged but not absolutely required.
and Images Apocalyptic
Maud McInerney, September
1, 2002. Haverford College Department of English.