The End of the World

Course Description

This course will explore the history of apocalyptic thinking from its origins to the present. It is divided into three units. The first unit will explore the origins of apocalyptic thinking in the writings of ancient Jewish and Christian writers. We will ask what it means to call a text an apocalypse and investigate the social, political, and historical circumstances that gave rise to the idea. The second unit traces the reception of apocalyptic thought through the 19th Century and interrogates how belief in the apocalypse was at times socially productive and at times led to violence. We will examine the variables that led to its use for good and bad and investigate the relationship between religion and violence and religion and peacebuilding. The third unit looks at apocalyptic thinking in modern times.

With the rise of secularism, is there a difference between religious and secular beliefs in a coming apocalypse? What is the relationship between apocalyptic thought and millenarian/new religious movements? We apply our knowledge at the conclusion of the course by analyzing the present-day apocalyptic imagination through popular literature, social media, and movies, and ask how the knowledge acquired in this course can prepare us to engage with those who have an apocalyptic mindset (whether or not we ourselves have that mindset) in productive ways.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:
• Critically read and analyze ancient religious texts with sensitivity to their social, political, and historical context.
• Articulate examples of how apocalyptic texts were used for good and for violence throughout history.
• Compare and contrast religious and secular versions of apocalyptic thought in modern times.
• Demonstrate through case studies how ancient religious texts and themes undergird contemporary apocalyptic thought.
• Engage in and report on a conversation they had over social media with a person who believes in an imminent (religious) apocalypse.


No prerequisites required. This course will be beneficial for beginner, intermediate, and advance students.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 25, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 12:15P-3:05P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Robert Kashow
Course Number: 10371