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GH 101: The End of the World: Apocalypticism Through the Ages

Course Description

GH 301Zombies, viruses, robots, oh my!  Images of the apocalypse permeate our popular culture.  (When the undead threaten to upset Jane Austen’s polite society, you know something’s up.)  We are hardly the first to fixate on the end of the world, however, as millenarian movements may be found throughout history.  But why?  What impels humans to dwell upon—and sometimes even hasten—the end?  This course will explore that curious habit through contextual investigations of four points in time:  the Fall of Jerusalem during the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE, with attention to its effects on Jews, Essenes, and early Christians;  medieval millenarianism around the year 1000 and in the wake of the Black Death;  American “end-of-days” movements in the mid-19th Century;  and modern preoccupations with doomsday scenarios, whether natural, divine, or man-made. Students will regularly discuss common readings, engage one another through a group project on a topic of shared interest, and (conditions permitting) go on a class field trip to New Harmony, Indiana.


Karolyn Kinane and Michael A. Ryan (eds.), End of Days: Essays on the Apocalypse from Antiquity to Modernity (McFarland, 2009)

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (Eos, 2006 [orig. 1959])

Jay Rubenstein, Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse (Basic, 2011)

Instructor: Dr. Steven Stofferahn

If you have questions about this course, please email Dr. Stofferahn.