Ms. Gokturk

Trends in Literature:Utopias & Dystopias

End of the World Literature

 

An End-of-the-World Glossary

 

Apocalypse: From Greek apo + kalypsos--literally, an uncovering or unveiling. Because of associations with the final book of the Christian Bible, known either as the Apocalypse of St. John or the Book of Revelation, "apocalyptic" carries connotations of universal cataclysm as well as the disclosure of mysteries. More generally, an apocalypse is a religious or secular depiction of the world's end.

 

Danse Macabre (Dance of Death): A ritual initiated in the Middle Ages, probably in response to epidemics of plague; the combination of pantomime and dance in which various classes of people were carried off by Death had the effect of a silent sermon. Hans Holbein did a series of woodcuts on the theme in the late 16th century; a striking modern example is the final shot of Bergman's Seventh Seal.

 

Dies Irae: Literally, "day of wrath." Medieval Latin hymn used in church liturgy as a reminder of death and the last judgment. It is a frequent motif in choral and symphonic music concerned with apocalypse or end-times (e.g. in Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana)

 

Diluvial, Antediluvial, Postdiluvial: Respectively, referring to the era of the Flood, the time before the Flood, and the time after the Flood

 

Doomsday: A more general term than the theological "Last Judgment" for a final day of reckoning when Fate (Doom) is fulfilled

 

Dystopia: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives; anti-utopia

 

Eleusinian Mysteries: In the central myth, Kore (called Persephone by the Romans), the daughter of Demeter was kidnapped by Hades and taken to his kingdom, the underworld. As Demeter searched for her daughter, she neglected the grain and harvests, causing a great famine. Along her journeys, Demeter came to the city of Eleusis. There she befriended the royal family. When the queen refused to let Demeter grant immortality to her son, Demeter revealed her true identity to the people of Eleusis. She demanded that the city build a temple to house her and their worship of her became the Eleusinian Mysteries.

 

End-time: A term used by historians for a critical period of upheaval when some phase of history comes to a definitive close (ex. the French Revolution); as applied to the world's end, it designates the end of time itself as a measure of historical or human passage

 

Eschatology: A branch of theology concerned with "last things"-- from Greek eschatos (furthest or extreme) + logos (wisdom)

 

Holocaust: Originally, a term in religious ritual for a sacrifice in which the offering or victim was consumed in flame (literally, "the burning of the whole"). As a metaphor for total destruction by incineration it has been applied to the Nazi program for Jewish extermination and to nuclear bombardment.

 

Isis & Osiris Mysteries: Many of the beliefs of the Isis Mysteries are centered around the story of the death and resurrection of Isis' husband, Osiris. Isis and Osiris ruled Egypt together for many years, maintaining peace and civilizing the people. However, Isis' evil brother Seth wanted to rule Egypt with Isis as his queen, so by a trick he shut Osiris in a coffin and threw him in the Nile. Isis went out in search of her husband, and eventually found his coffin stuck in a tree in a distant kingdom. She brought his body back to Egypt and hid it, but Seth found it and cut it into fourteen pieces, which he scattered throughout Egypt. Isis gathered thirteen of these pieces, and reassembled her dead husband. She then transformed into a kite (a hawk) and by flapping her wings, breathed life back into his body. Upon his revival, Osiris impregnated Isis and she soon gave birth to their son, the hawk-god Horus. Through the spirit Ka-mutef, Osiris transferred his life to his son. Osiris continued to live as a spirit while his son carried out his work on earth, including killing Seth and resuming his father's throne.

 

Last Judgment: The final assessment by the Son of God of all human beings, resulting in either eternal bliss or eternal damnation for each individual soul

 

Man: The male human being, sometimes used in a generic sense to suggest the human race collectively. It is often employed in the second sense in end-of-the-world narratives, despite its ambiguous, sometimes deceptive, and often exclusionary connotations and despite claims that are made for its status as a "generic" term. The history and use of "man" in this supposedly generic sense are highly problematic. This is NOT an instance of so-called "political correctness"; it is simply a matter of being linguistically precise and lucid. Although accuracy dictates that we quote the word "man" when citing the texts that use it, our analyses will generally be sharper if in our own discourse we use one of the many clearer terms available: the human species; humanity; human beings; people; homo sapiens; humankind; men and women. In some specialized contexts the terms earthlings, terrans, anthropoids or anthromorphs may be appropriate.

 

Memento Mori: A reminder of mortality. An early example of this popular pictorial and literary motif is Genesis 3:19: "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

 

Millennium: In Christian eschatology the thousand-year reign of an enlightened and perfected humanity before the final loosing of Satan on the world; the Millennium is the final stage of earthly existence before the end of the world

 

Omega Point: term invented by the twentieth-century Jesuit mystic and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin to designate the moment in the history of the cosmos when human potential and cosmic potential are united and simultaneously fulfilled.  

 

Ouroboros: ("the tail-devourer") is the symbolization of concepts such as completion, perfection and totality, the endless round of existence, etc. It is usually represented as a worm or serpent with its tail in its mouth. The Ouroboros eats its own tail and thus symbolizes the self-sufficient cycle of nature. The great serpent devouring itself represents the idea that "All Is One," even though the universe undergoes periodic cycles of destruction and creation (or resurrection).

Prelapsarian, Postlapsarian: Referring to the time before and the time after the Fall from innocence in the Garden of Eden

 

Revelation: an act of revealing or communicating divine truth. Often, it is something that is revealed by God to humans an act of revealing to view or making known: an enlightening or astonishing disclosure. When capitalized, the term refers to an apocalyptic writing addressed to early Christians of Asia Minor and included as a book in the New Testament -- called also Apocalypse

 

Ragnarok: In Scandinavian myth, the "doom of the gods"--the day when all things end: the planet, human life, the gods

 

Second Coming: The final reappearance and triumph of Jesus, the Son of God, over Satan--an event which culminates in universal judgment, the end of this world, and the beginning of a new, eternal kingdom of spirit

 

Utopia: an imaginary and indefinitely remote place. Often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions

 

Other Terms to be Added?

 

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