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HSY2600 - Cults and the End of Time: a history of millenarian discourse

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Peter Howard


Not offered in 2007


This unit exlores the allure of ideas of apocalypse and the advent of a new age, either catastrophic or utopian. It will investigate the origins of such millenarian thought in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean world, before surveying how and why the images therein evoked caught not only the medieval imagination but also how end-of-time discourse plays out amongst modern thinkers (Marx, Fukyama, Derrida etc.) and is represented in literature, media and film. Special attention will be given to charting the complex relationship of apocalyptic/eschatalogical traditions to religious, social and political change, and therefore to dissent, revolution, and rhetorics of new world orders.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will have:

  1. Acquainted themselves with and evaluated the considerable body of knowledge that has built up on the subject of millenarianism in recent years.
  2. Reflected on the complex relationship of apocalyptic traditions to religious, social and political change, and therefore to dissent and revolution, between 100 CE and today.
  3. Thought about questions of millenarian concepts of time, history and numerology, as well as the contextual and conceptual nuances of millenarian, apocalyptic, eschatological and utopian designations.
  4. Thought comparatively and applied their developing understanding to analyses of specific situations and contexts, examples of which they will have engaged during the course.
  5. Continued the acquisition of critical and analytical skills, and the ability to communicate them verbally and in writing. These skills include, with specific reference to this course:
    1. developing the habit of thinking and reading critically;
    2. displaying both precision and imagination in presenting an historical argument;
    3. being able to develop an historical topic of one's own for investigation; and
    4. being able to think self-consciously about history as a form of knowledge, and being willing to entertain a multi-disciplinary approach to its study.


Task for Weeks 1-2 450 words 5% +
Tutorial Participation (incl. attendance
wrtitten responses) 1200 words 3% +
Research Essay (2000 words) 25%
10% for leading tutorial (topic presentation)
5% for plan 2000 words 40%
In-class test (total 50 mins) 850 words 25%

Contact hours

2 hours (1 lecture and 1 tutorial) per week


a first-year sequence in History or permission