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- The ends
of centuries have often been marked by upheavals
in both literature and politics. To what
extent is contemporary apocalypticism, as
seen on this Web site and in the literature
and film of the late 1990s, simply a magnified
response to the turn of a century which also
happens to be the turn of a millennium? Compare
some of these texts to the literature of
the 1890s (NAEL 2.1740). What similarities
do you find?
- The year
2000 is not the first millennium to leave
an impact on human history and art. Many
in Europe believed that the year 1000 would
mark the apocalypse. What signs, if any,
of premillenial tension do you find in the
examples of Old English literature in NAEL
(1.23–109)? How would the authors
of The Dream of the Rood (NAEL 1.26–28), The
Wanderer (NAEL 1.99–102) and The
Battle of Maldon (NAEL 1.103–109)
view the approach of the year 1000?
- Science fiction
and science fact have often been blurred
in twentieth-century art, and literature
has provided an outlet for humanity's
darkest fears about the future. But interest
in the environment and concerns about humankind's
influence on the planet have not been confined
to the twentieth century. How, and to what
extent, do Romantic
admirers of picturesque landscape and Victorian
writers on the problems of industrialism express
anxiety about the impact of humanity's
activities on the natural environment?
- A briefly
powerful faction in the years of the English
Civil War and Commonwealth were the Fifth
Monarchists, who believed the apocalypse
was at hand. What signs of millenarian feeling
do you find in the selections gathered as "Voices
of the War" (NAEL 1.1725–1753),
and in Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia (NAEL
1.1578–1582). When did Browne think
the world would end, and how did this belief
shape his thought about time and human ambition?
- The Passing
of the Arthur (NAEL 2.1293–1303),
the last of Tennyson's Idylls of
the King (NAEL 2.) is filled with apocalyptic
- What is the vision of history and of Christian civilization's future
in this poem? How does it compare to the vision of William Butler Yeats?
- What elements of millenarian thought are found in the medieval myth of King Arthur's return?
Jones foresaw that "by the application
of modern science even distant nations
may be brought together in a few days to
- What is the relationship between modern technology in general, and
the technology of warfare in particular, and apocalyptic feeling? Is
millenarianism necessarily anti-scientific, or does science form part
of its vision?
- What is the relation of military technology to thoughts of the apocalypse
in Hardy's "Channel Firing" (NAEL 2.1944–1945), written a few
months before the outbreak of the World War I?
- Much of Yeats's
later poetry employs symbols and images drawn
from the system of history described in "A
- How does this symbolism operate in poems such as "The Second Coming"
(NAEL 2.2106–2107), "Leda and the Swan" (NAEL
2.2110–2111), "Sailing to Byzantium" (NAEL 2.2109–2110) and
"Byzantium" (NAEL 2.2115–2116)?
- Is knowledge of the "system" necessary to a proper understanding
of these poems, or are there limits to its usefulness as an aid in interpretation?
- By comparing
Yeats's "Second Coming" (NAEL 2.2106–2107)
and related works with the prophetic and
apocalyptic verse of James Thomson (NAEL
1.2822), Blake (NAEL 2.35), and Shelley (NAEL
2.698), can we place Yeats within a tradition
of prophetic, visionary, or "Bardic" poetry?
- What relation,
if any, can you detect between Yeats's
evolving vision of history and his changing
views on Irish nationalism, as expressed
in No Second Troy (NAEL 2.2098), September
1913 (NAEL 2.2099), Easter 1916 (NAEL
2.2014–2016) and Under Ben Bulben (NAEL
- At the end
of the twentieth century, apocalyptic thought
had an appeal across the political spectrum.
- Where do you see apocalyptic ideas and images being employed in contemporary
political discourse, and to what end? Is the idea of the apocalypse,
in its essence, "progressive" or "conservative"?
- Two hundred years ago, the French Revolution
expectations. How do those expectations
compare to those aroused at the end of
the twentieth century?