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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Apocalypse Now and Then Seminar - Signs of the Hour: The End of Time in Muslim Sources

22nd November 2010, 17:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Professor Geert Jan Van Gelder (University of Oxford)

This is the third seminar in the Apocalypse Now and Then seminar series.

Depictions of apocalypse - understood as revelation and/or the end of the world, in both religious and secular discourses - serve a variety of functions, ranging from the political to the scientific, and the theological to the anthropological. They can reinforce or subvert power structures, interrogate what it is to be human, and figure the future in order to reflect on the present.

This interdisciplinary seminar series brings together experts from a number of disciplines to reflect on two intertwined themes. The first explores the functions served by end-of-world narratives and pictures, that is, it focuses on why apocalyptic stories are told rather than on what particular stories are told. The second analyses the ways in which the apocalyptic is characterized by a relationship with particular sorts of form, language and image, for example, metaphors and fictions, pictures, performances, and poems.

Islamic end-of-time narratives begin with the Qur'an and are found in several later, more elaborated versions (they are popular and taken very seriously in some circles today). They contain vivid descriptions of cataclysmic and catastrophic events as well as many more ordinary signs taken to be portents of the approaching end. In this seminar Professor Geert Jan Van Gelder will sketch the former, but focus more on the latter, which are often placed in the future but are in fact about the authors' world and the evils they perceive in their own time, and which thereby give some insight into the functions of the eschatological texts.

Contact kathryn.banks2@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.