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Honoursmodule: Apocalypse

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Lisa Doeland

Entry requirements 

For 2nd or 3rd year honours students only.

Learning objectives:

After this module, students are able to:

  • Distinguish the classical, biblical meaning of the Apocalypse from its secular incarnations, such as catastrophe, collapse and extinction;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key theoretical approaches to apocalyptic thought;
  • Analyze apocalyptic thought from the perspective of one’s own discipline;
  • Describe apocalyptic thought and its implications from the perspective of other disciplines;
  • Critically reflect on the rise of apocalyptic thought in contemporary culture;
  • Relate to the apocalypse on a personal, existential level.


The Apocalypse is on our mind. In a year like 2020, in which Covid-19 hit and we were faced with empty supermarket shelves, when the melting of the Greenland Icesheet reached a tipping point and its disappearance cannot be avoided, when the impacts of climate change are gaining in force, causing fires, storms and heatwaves, it is hard not to think about the end of the world (as we know it). But what is that apocalyptic feeling that haunts us?

In popular imagination the end of the world usually comes with a bang. A meteorite comes crashing, a solar flare wipes out all technology, the robots take over, zombies eat us all. But what if things end with less of a bang, like the sixth mass extinction that is currently going on? Does our apocalyptic imagination help us to see things more clearly – its literal meaning being “revelation” – or does our thinking the end as an all-or-nothing event cloud our vision and judgement? We tend to indulge in “pessimism porn” or “collapse porn” and in doing so keeping doom at a safe distance. If anything, our thinking about the end of things, of times, of the world is a way of dealing with mortality and ephemerality, which we tend to avoid.

In this course we will distinguishes the biblical notion of apocalypse from secular notions such as collapse, catastrophe and extinction, both asking what they share and where they divert. We will take a multidisciplinary approach and among others explore the political implications of apocalyptic thought (such as fear-mongering) and its psychological implications (such as dealing with anxiety, fear and apathy), also relating it to similar states of mind such as pessimism and melancholy. We will also ask what apocalyptic thought tells us about our times and our culture, and explore how it is related to dreams of progress and to utopian and dystopian thought. Where we will end up? The apocalypse keeps us guessing, that’s for sure. 

Teaching format:

  • Lecture
  • Seminar
  • Presentation / symposium
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project/ thesis
  • Guidance / feedback moment


  • A short individual presentation (5 minutes) in which the Apocalypse features in one way or another. You can present a preliminary overview of your final paper, but you are also invited to take a more creative approach and reflect on (or even enact!) “the end of the world” in a performance, a short story, a theatrical scene, a selection of photographs, et cetera. (pass/fail)
  • One of two assignments. You can either do a short study of apocalyptic thought in a historical source (500 words) or write a short essay (also 500 words) in which you either relate to apocalyptic thought on a personal, existential level or try and read the “signs” of impending doom in day to day life and reflect on that. (pass/fail)     
  • Write a midterm proposal for your final paper. (20%)
  • Give feedback to the midterm proposals of several of your fellow students. (pass/fail)
  • Write a final paper. (80%)

Study material:

A list of both mandatory and suggested study material will be made available at the start of the course in the course manual.

Number of participants:

Max. 25

Recommended prior knowledge:

No prior knowledge is required. The course is taught in English and the assignments are in English.


Check Datanose for the exact information.


Registration is possible for students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 

Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in February