Apocalyptic Grief: Love, Loss, and the End of the World





Matthew Ichihashi Potts (Committee on the Study of Religion (FAS) and Harvard Divinity School)
Freshman Seminar 65C 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment: Limited to 12

Apocalypse is all around. Not only do apocalyptic visions and dystopian imaginations pervade our fiction and our film, but the world itself seems determined to realize these visions in our lifetimes. Pandemic, insurrection, famine, climate crisis, war, and rumor of war all abound. As frightening as these realities are, they are also mainstays of human civilization. The literary and cinematic apocalypses we see today take their place within a long tradition of human creativity that has courageously and imaginatively reckoned with the end of the world. And whatever else our religious traditions do, they take seriously practices of lament, remorse, penitence, and mourning before the reality of great loss and great wrong. This seminar will survey a variety of apocalyptic texts, beginning with early scriptural examples and ending with contemporary film comedy, to ask what a well-lived life should look like at the end of the world. Through close attention to assigned texts, and drawing on the resources of literary, film, and religious studies, we will raise crucial moral questions for our consideration, questions about the nature of hope, the lure of despair, the utility of love, the certainty of loss, and the ethics of grief.


See also: Fall 2022