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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: The Future of the End of the World: Interdisciplinary Interpretations (PG) (DIVI11044)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryHow will the world end? From covid through conspiracies to climate change, the apocalypse - from Greek apokálypsis, 'revelation' - is repeatedly referenced in contemporary culture. In this interdisciplinary course, we analyse and assess classic and current visions of the apocalypse. Concentrating on European and American contexts, we trace these visions throughout history, inquiring how factual and fictional accounts of the apocalypse shape our understanding of the world we live in today. Throughout, we aim to ask and answer how visions of the apocalypse determine our future by provoking either apathy or action.
Course description Academic Description:
In this interdisciplinary course, we analyse and assess classic and current visions of the apocalypse. Approaching apocalypticism as a social and political imaginary that runs through Euroamerican history, we ask how visions of the end of the world shape contemporary culture. Religion is crucial to these visions. We draw on a variety of disciplines - reaching from natural sciences through the interpretation of film and fiction to cultural studies - to discuss how visions of the apocalypse determine our future. Which apocalyptic visions provoke apathy? Which apocalyptic visions provoke action? And how can we differentiate between them through a politics of envisioning the end of the world? By asking and answering questions like these, the course enables us to identify and interpret the apocalyptic imaginary in contemporary culture, thus showcasing the significance of interdisciplinary reflections on religion for understanding the world we live in today.

Framed by 'Introduction' and 'Conclusion' that cover the emergence and the evolution of the study of apocalypticism in the academy, this course will (1) examine the roots of apocalypticism in classical sources, (2) explore the resonances of apocalypticism in contemporary sources, and (3) evaluate how classic and contemporary apocalypticisms shape our imagination of the future. Throughout, the sources are selected in conversation with the students taking the course.

Student Learning Experience:
The course is structured around a lecture of one hour that introduces students to the topic of the week. The lecture is complemented by a seminar session of one hour dedicated to the discussion of set texts or themes. These are chosen in conversation with students, showing the variety of visions of the end of the world in the past and the present. The seminar sessions include student presentations of around ten minutes with a view to initiating discussion. In addition to their presentation, students will be assessed by a final essay. Through these assessments, students will demonstrate the achievement of the learning outcomes of the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the significance of interdisciplinary reflections on religion for contemporary culture.
  2. Compare and contrast visions of the end of the world in a variety of classic and contemporary sources.
  3. Analyse and assess the ethical and political impact of apocalyptic visions critically and constructively.
  4. Pursue and present independent research in the interdisciplinary study of apocalypticism.
  5. Engage in constructive and critical debate with peers.
Reading List
Michael G. Cornelius and Sherry Ginn (eds), Apocalypse TV: Essays on Society and Self at the End of the World (North Carolina: McFarland, 2020).

Earl T. Harper and Doug Specht (eds), Imagining Apocalyptic Politics in the Anthropocene (London: Routledge, 2022).

Martha Himmelfarb, The Apocalypse: A Brief History (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996).

Collin McAllister (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Apocalyptic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Kelly J. Murphy and Justin Jeffcoat Schedtler (eds), Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents through History (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016).

Jayne Svenungsson, Divining History: Prophetism, Messianism and the Development of the Spirit (New York: Berghahn, 2016).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Ability to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue.
- Ability to interpret primary and secondary literature in an interdisciplinary context.
- Ability to analyse and synthesise evidence from a variety of sources.
- Ability to think systematically.
- Ability to pursue and present independent research.
Course organiserDr Ulrich Schmiedel
Tel: (0131 6)50 8918
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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