Stockholm university
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Visions of the End: Apocalypse and Eschatology in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

The fascination with apocalyptic ideas has been integral part of the Abrahamic religions and is well established in their sacred scriptures. This course aims to offer a historical overview of the emergence of the “apocalypse” as a specific religious category and as a distinct literary genre in its relation to its socio-cultural and historical background.

Bild apokalyps
Foto: Tim Mrzyglod / Pixabay

The course will outline the development of apocalyptic thought and literature from antiquity until modern times with a special focus on texts relating to heavenly tours, visions of hell and heaven, and the revival of chiliastic hopes and anxieties.

Furthermore, main concepts of apocalyptic thought will be presented and discussed, such as schematization and periodization of history, the end of history as a cosmic catastrophe, apocalyptic fears related to natural disasters, epidemics, etc. as perceived signs of the end, the cosmic and metaphysical mysteries of the heavenly world, the idea of afterlife, the concept of the retribution after death, et al. Modern aspects and interpretations of apocalyptic feelings and ideas in front of contemporary political and historical changes will be taken into consideration.

Accordingly, the course will also examine how traditional apocalyptic concepts are being used and manipulated in modern political contexts, in the service of political and religious fundamentalism and in relation with modern geo-political conflicts. In a concluding session, the course will examine the symbolic and literary expansion and elaboration of apocalyptic ideas in modernity, with special attention to the expansion and popularity of end of the world scenarios in contemporary popular culture, as in literature and in film.