Skip to main content

IP204 The Apocalyptic Imaginary

Dr Gavin Schwartz-Leeper
Module Leader
Term 2
10 weeks

Moodle Platform »

Principal Aims

This module uses transdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning approaches to support students to generate problems arising from a range of narratives about the end of the world, and to consider how these problems reflect complex concerns about individuality, morality, the social contract, and the afterlife. Beginning with historical mythological narratives and encompassing religious, political, and ecological apocalyptic theories and scenarios through to the modern day, this module will encourage students to think in transdisciplinary ways about the roles played by apocalyptic narratives in historical and modern societies. The module will make use of literary, religious, philosophical and historical texts, films, music, images, environmental science data, news and social media, and political narratives to encourage students to develop comparative analytical skills and think across disciplinary boundaries.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have been exposed to and worked with complex, multi-disciplinary narratives, requiring the development and employment of advanced critical thinking skills, academic writing, presentation skills, and both individual and group research skills. Students will be expected to demonstrate they have:

  • Acquired an understanding of key features of Western apocalypticism, including aspects of cosmology and eschatology;
  • Examined and explicated the consequences of apocalyptic beliefs in practical settings;
  • Acquired an understanding of the ways in which social concerns shape political activities;
  • Acquired an understanding of the ways in which social concerns shape scientific inquiry;
  • Studied at least two apocalyptic narratives in depth;
  • Developed an ability to critically examine and critique apocalyptic symbols in art and society;
  • Developed an ability to generate relevant multidisciplinary problems through individual and small group research;
  • Developed their individual and group research skills through multidisciplinary examinations of specific case studies.


Problem One: The Bundys and American Apocalypticism

Week 1: An Introduction to Eschatological and Apocalyptic Narratives in Science, Religion, and Philosophy

Week 2: The White Horse Prophecy

Week 3: Prophecy and Revelation in the American West

Problem Two: The (Un)controlled Body: Slaves and Zombies

Week 4: Monsters and/in Society

Week 5: Zombies, Voodoo, and Slavery in Haiti

Week 6: Theorizing the Zombie Apocalypse

Problem Three: The Transhuman Postapocalypse: Extinction Level Events

Week 7: Representations of Eco-collapse (plus presentation)

Week 8: The Cold War and the Environment (plus presentation)

Week 9: The Transhuman Postapocalypse (plus presentation)

Week 10: Discursive Outline Peer-Review Session

Indicative Bibliography

Adela Yarbro Collins (2011) ‘Apocalypse Now: The State of Apocalyptic Studies Near the End of the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century’, The Harvard Theological Review. Cambridge University Press, 104(4), pp. 447–457.
‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979).
‘Bundyville : NPR’ (2018).

Cohen, J. J. (1996a) Monster theory: reading culture. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press.
Derrida, J. (2006) Specters of Marx. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Doctrine and Covenants 45 (no date). Available at:
Don L. Penrod (2010) ‘Edwin Rushton as the Source of the White Horse Prophecy’, Brigham Young University Studies. Brigham Young University, 49(3), pp. 75–131. Available at:
Hickman, Jared (2014) ‘The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse.’, American Literature., 86(3), pp. 429–461. doi: 10.1215/00029831-2717371.
Hurlbut, J. B. and Tirosh-Samuelson, H. (eds) (2016) Perfecting human futures: transhuman visions and technological imaginations. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Available at:
Joni Seager (2014) Carson’s Silent Spring : A Reader's Guide. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Available at:
Kim Worthy (1992) ‘HEARTS OF DARKNESS: MAKING ART, MAKING HISTORY, MAKING MONEY, MAKING “VIETNAM”’, Cinéaste. Cineaste Publishers, Inc., 19(2), pp. 24–27. Available at:
‘Live and Let Die’ (1973). ITV London. Available at:
Neal Stephenson (2015) Seveneves. The Borough Press. Available at:
Rachel Carson (2002) Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Revelation 6 King James Version (no date). Available at:
Sarah Juliet Lauro (30ADa) The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death (American Literatures Initiative). Rutgers University Press. Available at:
Sarah Juliet Lauro (30ADb) The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death (American Literatures Initiative). Rutgers University Press. Available at:
Susan Buck-Morss (2000) ‘Hegel and Haiti’, Critical Inquiry. The University of Chicago Press, 26(4), pp. 821–865. Available at:
The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature (no date). Available at:
‘The Subject and Power | Critical Inquiry: Vol 8, No 4’ (no date). Available at:
‘Wall-E (2008)’ (no date). BBC1 London. Available at:

Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Pan Books, 1979)
Rachel Carson. Silent Spring (Penguin, 1965).
Kelton Cobb, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Religion and Popular Culture (Blackwell, 2008).
James F. Cooper, Jr. and Kenneth P. Minkema, eds. The Sermon Notebook of Samuel Parris, 1689-1694 (University Press of Virginia, 1993).
Mary B. Cunningham and Elizabeth Theokritoff, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Jared Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2nd edn. (Norton, 2011).
John S. Dryzek, et. al., eds. The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Andrew George, trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin, 2000).
Hesiod. Theogony, trans. Glenn W. Most. (Loeb, 2014).
Safa Motesherrei, et. al. “Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies” in Ecological Economics 101 (2014), pp. 90-102.
James T. Palmer, ed. The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Neal Stephenson. Seveneves (Morrow, 2015).
Carl Sagan. The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Random House, 1994).
J. B. Stump and Alan G. Padgett, eds. The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Blackwell, 2012).
Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda, trans. Anthony Faulkes (Everyman, 1987).
Jerry L. Wallis, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Tim Winter, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Additional Reading opportunities


Visual Materials

Apocalypse Now (United Artists, 1979).
Live and Let Die (United Artists, 1973).
Wall-E (Pixar, 2008).