BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
End of the World and Apocalypticism

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT21082
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course provides knowledge and analytical tools to understand and assess apocalyptic movements, the use of apocalyptic ideas and imagery in contemporary culture, and the effects of apocalyptic thought in politics and elsewhere. The course runs from examination of the biblical roots of much apocalyptic thought, via analysis of a range of historic apocalyptic groups, to present-day culture and politics.


Available on which programme(s)?

BA Religions and Theology

BA Philosophy and Religion

(BA Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics)

BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology



·         To explore and analyse texts and movements that focus beliefs or expression either on the end of the world or on other dramatic events conceptualised in end-of-the-world terms

·         To analyse how movements, texts and uses are expressed in ‘apocalyptic’ vocabulary and imagery

·         To explore and analyse cultural, social and political uses and effects of the above

To provide an opportunity for researching and presenting on the above. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course unit you should normally be able to

·         Discuss the term ‘apocalyptic’ and describe typical features of apocalyptic ideas, texts and images

·         Describe a range of movements that have focused on end-of-the-world ideas or language

·         Discuss and contextualise key apocalyptic texts from biblical and other sources

Describe a range of current or recent uses or effects of apocalyptic ideas or imagery

Intellectual skills

·         Analyse apocalyptic movements, especially through contextualising them and understanding patterns and sources of apocalyptic ideas and related practices

·         Analyse use of apocalyptic ideas and imagery in cultural artefacts such as films and books

Analyse biblical apocalyptic texts, especially by putting them in the context in which they were written

Practical skills

·         Extract evidence of apocalyptic elements in cultural artefacts such as films or books

·         Extract evidence of apocalyptic elements in reports of movements and groups

Make clear presentations of results of research on apocalyptic movements or cultural artefacts

Transferable skills and personal qualities

·         analyse films, reports and other sources

·         discuss in groups on controversial topics

·         engage empathetically with beliefs and actions of groups that are sharply different from mainstream society

engage empathetically with beliefs and actions of societies, or sections of societies, that proceed on assumptions sharply different from yours.

Employability skills

This course helps prepare students to work in contexts where they encounter beliefs and practices that may be sharply alien to them (or which, conversely, may be taken for granted by them). It prepares students to engage with, assess and produce reports on such beliefs and practices in an empathetic but analytical and effective manner.

Assessment methods

Presentation and outline for report/portfolio formative
Report/portfolio 50%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

peer and seminar leader oral feedback on presentation


written feedback on report/portfolio outline and bibliography


Written feedback on report/portfolio

Summative and formative

Written feedback on examination

Summative and formative


Recommended reading

John J. Collins, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014


Stephen D. O’Leary and Glen S. McGhee, eds. War in Heaven, Heaven on Earth: Theories of the Apocalyptic. London: Equinox, 2005


Arthur H. Williamson. Apocalypse Then: Prophecy and the Making of the Modern World. Westport: Praeger, 2008


John Hall. Apocalypse: From Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity, 2009


Crawford Gribben. Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America. Oxford: OUP, 2009


James Aston and John Walliss, eds. Small Screen Revelations: Apocalypse in Contemporary Television. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013


Adele Reinhartz. Bible and Cinema: An Introduction. Routledge, 2013


The Bible (preferably New Revised Standard Version, with Apocrypha)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Oakes Unit coordinator

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